RALEIGH (February 24, 2020) – Today marks the first day the Trump Administration will begin subjecting immigrants seeking green cards or visas to a new public charge rule, essentially a “wealth test” for immigrants with low incomes that rewrites our immigration laws without input from Congress. It is of vital importance for the public to be aware of this rule, which has stoked fear across the nation, as well as the facts of what the rule does and – just as important – does not mean for immigrants and their families.

The public charge rule will undoubtedly make it more difficult for many people to immigrate legally to the United States, including elderly parents, those with health conditions or disabilities, and workers who fill critical jobs in our economy but do not earn sufficient wages, among others. It will keep out people with low incomes who have never accessed a single benefit program of any form in the U.S. In short, it will carry on the Trump administration’s pattern of assaults on immigrants and their families, as well as communities of color and those with low incomes.

That said, what the new public charge rule does not – and should not – do is keep people out of public benefit programs. Under the rule, U.S.-citizen children and family members can continue to use any and all benefit programs without any effect on their family members’ green card applications. To be clear, most immigrants who are in the process of applying for a green card are not themselves eligible for any of the programs that are considered negatively under the rule, and so likely haven’t been using them before the rule’s adoption. Additionally, many key programs are not considered negatively under the rule at all, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Affordable Care Act, free school breakfast and lunch, and Medicaid for pregnant women and children, among others.

While we continue to reject the public charge rule and the negative, fear-mongering message it sends from the highest office in the land, both immigrants and their families should continue accessing benefit programs that they need without fear. Families concerned about using benefits should not drop out of these programs unless they’ve consulted an expert first.

More information is available at www.ncjustice.org/public-charge.