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Public charge rule may make drastic changes

The federal government issued a proposed rule that may lead to the rejection of more immigrants or make immigrants and their families reject government benefits. Expansion of the public charge rule could have a dramatic impact on immigration law enforcement.

The public charge provision was enacted in the Immigration Act of 1882. A public charge, who may be denied admission, is defined as someone who is primarily dependent on government assistance when it provides over half of their income.

Traditionally, this definition relied only on cash benefits. These included benefits such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Social Security's Supplemental Security income.

The government's proposal, if approved, would expand the pubic charge definition. It would include more widely-used and important programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, housing assistance and Medicare drug subsidies for eligible senior citizens.

A pubic charge would also include anyone who accepts benefits that equal at least 15 percent of poverty guidelines. This equals $150 in monthly assistance or $1,800 annually.

Earlier this month, the government published this expanded definition as proposed rule. The public has 60 days to submit comments and the Department of Homeland Security is legally-required to review these and address any substantive comments.

Twenty Senate Democrats joined a letter sent to the Department of Homeland Security requesting the withdrawal of this rule. They said that immigrants now must prove that they will not be a financial burden. The expanded definition will only make hardworking families meet their needs with less, according to the senators.

An attorney may help immigrants and their families deal with stricter rules and laws. Legal representation may help assure that their rights are not violated.

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