VOLS Opposes Change To Federal Public Charge Rule

August 12, 2019
Updated August 12, 2018:
Today, the Trump Administration issued a new rule that shuts America’s doors to limited-resourced immigrants, those who are living in the country legally and are receiving government benefits. The ‘public charge rule’ forces immigrant families to forgo life sustaining benefits in order apply for or maintain eligibility for U.S. citizenship. VOLS opposed this rule last year because we it will cause grievous harm to families and individuals in New York City and across the country, resulting in increased homelessness, lost educational opportunities, worsened health conditions, and other unforseen impacts.
For more information on the new rule, please read this article in The New York Times.
If you are a VOLS client and have questions about how this rule may affect you, please call us at 347.521.5722.
On October 10, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a proposed rule, which would radically re-define who may be considered a “public charge” for the purpose of immigration eligibility. 
We believe that the clients of VOLS Elderly and Immigration Projects will be detrimentally impacted by these proposed regulatory changes. On December 10, 2018, VOLS submitted a public comment opposing the adoption of this proposed rule, asserting that DHS has failed to meaningfully take into consideration the impact on families, as required by law. We join the chorus of thousands of other organizations and individuals challenging this proposed rule because of the harm it will cause.  
A “public charge” is someone the United States believes is primarily dependent on the federal government to subsist. Currently, an immigration officer can deny permanent residence (an application for a green card) if an individual is “likely at any time to become a public charge.” To make this determination, immigration authorities look at whether an applicant has accessed needs based public assistance programs like SSI and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in making the determination about “public charge” status; this is rare because most immigrants are already unable to access most needs based public assistance benefits since the passage of the 1996 welfare reforms and because the statute requires that most green card applicants have a financial sponsor to prevent future dependency on benefits program. 
The Trump Administration is seeking to dramatically expand the definition who would be considered a “public charge” by factoring in family members who have accessed almost any public benefit in the past (including supplemental programs providing basic nutrition and housing assistance) in the determination, and by assuming that certain categories of people are more likely to become a “public charge.” These categories include anyone under the age of 18; anyone over the age of 61; anyone with a medical condition that could impact their ability to work; anyone with multiple children; anyone with without an “adequate education;” and anyone not currently working or in school. Immigrants who meet any of these factors may be denied entry or adjustment of their status on “public charge” grounds. 
The proposed rule targets the most vulnerable members of our society. Children, the elderly, the poor, and the disabled are the intended object of this proposed rule. Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) believes that this proposed rule would harm our clients and the communities we serve. The mere introduction of this proposal has already had a chilling effect on immigrants accessing public benefits. One client of the Immigration Project who called shortly after the announcement worried that if she accessed the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to help feed her infant son, a United States citizen, she would harm her own application to adjust her immigration status. 
Click here to read VOLS comment.