Re-Definition of ‘Public Charge’ Could Drastically Slash Family Immigration

Thomas Ewing writes about a planned Executive Branch change in immigration policy for “public charges” which will severely impact immigrants with moderate to low household income. It would make them ineligible for green cards. It may lead to expulsions. He says, “If these measures are translated into federal regulations, the share of immigrants who would qualify as a public charge would skyrocket.”

The Migration Policy Institute says that Applying the definition of public charge outlined in the March 2018 leaked draft, MPI estimates the share of non citizens who could face a public-charge determination based on benefits use would increase more than 15-fold—from 3 percent under current policy to 47 percent under the terms of the draft rule.

The covered benefits are very popular among native-born Americans — 31% use them, per the  MPI which estimates that 36% of naturalized citizens use them and 47% of non-citizen immigrants use them.

The administration plans to add to the circumstances under which a non-U.S. citizen is deemed a public charge—meaning someone who depends on government means-tested benefits or is likely to depend upon these benefits in the future. Being a public charge is grounds for inadmissibility into the country, and—depending on how far the administration wants to take this—might even become grounds for deportation as well.

If the policy is implemented, an immigrant would also be considered a public charge if he or she utilized (or might have to utilize) for herself or for her dependents, even if American citizens, non-cash benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Let’s look at SNAP beneficiaries. According to here, cross monthly income — that is, household income before any of the program’s deductions are applied — generally must be at or below 130 percent of the poverty line. 130 percent of the poverty line for a three-person family is $2,213. The poverty level is higher for bigger families and lower for smaller families.

The Federal minimum wage now is $7.25 per hour. Full-time work at this level yields monthly earnings of $1,256 monthly. The average monthly SNAP benefit is $254.

But a better way to look at SNAP eligibility is to see that for working age households, SNAP is often used during temporary periods of unemployment, such as for seasonal workers. The planned new policy will put at severe risk low income households in seasonal work.

The official page of the federal government on public charge is here.

Also go here.


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