Biden Administration Restored Pre-Trump Era Public Charge Regulations
Ronnate Asirwatham, NETWORK’s Government Relations Director,
September 14, 2022
On Friday, September 9, 2022, The Biden Administration restored pre-Trump era public charge regulations when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final public charge regulation that provides critical protections to secure immigrant families’ access to health and social services. This is a welcome update to the policy shift (flagged in March 2021) made to public charge regulations instituted in 2019 under the Trump administration
“The 2019 public charge rule was not in keeping with our nation’s values. It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. (DHS)
The Trump administration upended public charge rules that had existed for 20 years prior to their one term in office. Their changes were not consistent with Catholic Social Justice or NETWORK’s Build Anew Agenda, That administration considered noncash public benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, or housing assistance, in applications for green cards or temporary visas. immigrant persons, families, and children.
The Biden administration’s reversal not only restores the policy to the pre-Trump era, it also includes an improvement sought by more than 1,000 organizations coordinated by the Protecting Immigrant Families coalition (PIF): DHS will not consider use of health care, nutrition, or housing programs when making immigration decisions. NETWORK Lobby is in the PIF coalition.
Reacting to the publication of the final public charge regulation, PIF issued the following statement:
“The final Biden public charge regulation is a major win for immigrant families. We know that anti-immigrant politicians will attack this reform through partisan litigation, but there are solid grounds for a court to uphold the rule. The new rule clarifies what is and is not considered in a public charge determination, providing assurances that eligible immigrant families can use health care, nutrition, and housing programs without public charge concerns.
“The more than 600 members of the PIF coalition are emboldened in our broader fight to repeal provisions in immigration law that are racist and discriminate against low-income people of color. Congress must strike public charge from the law and eliminate other barriers to the health and social services safety net. We will continue to push our leaders for action.” (PIF director, Adriana Cadena)
Note: This DHS decision was met with broad support by House Leadership. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) applauded the Biden Administration’s final rule restoring longstanding policy on the treatment of noncitizens seeking government assistance.
The Trump-era regulations had a chilling effect on immigrants, causing many fearful to reach out for public assistance. An Urban Institute study examined immigrant families living with children under the age of 19 under the Trump policy in a Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey. The study found a significant preference to avoid health and social services benefits in order not to jeopardize their immigration application. This, of course, compromised their safety and well-being (and that of their children)–especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One in 5 adults in immigrant families with children (20.0 percent) and almost 3 in 10 of those in low-income immigrant families with children (28.8 percent) reported that they or a family member avoided one or more noncash public benefits or other help with basic needs in 2020 because of concerns about green card status or other immigration-related reasons. (Urban Institute)
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