RALEIGH (February 18, 2022) – The Biden administration’s proposed changes to the public charge rule will allow immigrant communities to more easily access programs that ensure they are healthy, safe, and housed. While the proposal is a step in the right direction and improves upon the Trump administration’s public charge policy, there is room for further improvement.

During the Trump administration, immigrants who used certain public benefits could be deemed a public charge—that is, a person likely to depend primarily on government services in the future—and denied residence or citizenship status. The Trump rule also included provisions making it difficult for low-income immigrants who had not used any benefit programs at all to regularize their status in the United States. The Biden proposal aims to formalize the public charge guidance that was in place for the two decades before the Trump administration. Still, the rule should more clearly exclude state and local programs from public charge determinations.

“We’re pleased that the new draft rule makes clear that both immigrants and their family members can use all health and nutrition programs for which they are eligible without negative consequences on a future immigration application,” said Kate Woomer-Deters, senior attorney with the North Carolina Justice Center’s Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “We encourage immigrants and their family members to access the health care and nutrition programs they need to keep themselves healthy and safe, especially during the ongoing pandemic.”

As a member of the Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) coalition, the North Carolina Justice Center supports policies that protect immigrant communities’ social and economic well-being. PIF’s Director Adriana Cadena, stated:

“President Biden made a commitment to eliminate barriers that deny eligible people in immigrant families access to the health and social services safety net. This DHS proposal is a significant step toward that goal, providing a fair and clear ‘public charge’ policy consistent with the law and protections against the abuses we saw under the Trump Administration. The proposal falls short, in failing to clearly exclude all state and local programs from public charge determinations. We look forward to working with the administration to strengthen protections for families.”

The draft proposal is available for review on the Department of Homeland Security’s website. After the rule is formally published, which is expected in upcoming days, there will be a 60-day period open for the public to submit comments.