A newly proposed federal rule jeopardizes the status of lawfully present immigrants who utilize public benefits programs to which they are entitled by law.


The Problem
The Executive branch of the federal government has proposed changes to various parts of CFR 8 via rulemaking that will deny lawfully present immigrants the ability to adjust their immigration status if they have utilized public benefits programs to which they are legally entitled. The so-called “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” rule change deviates from long-standing precedent and from Congress’s original intent for the public-charge statute. It also violates states’ rights to provide benefits to children and immigrants experiencing short-term crises. The Rule allows individual Department of Homeland Security caseworkers to “predict” whether an individual is likely to become a public charge in the future and, based on that prediction, to deny a change in immigration status. The basis for such a prediction is not defined in the Proposed Rule, leaving the determination to the sole discretion of individual caseworkers at DHS.

So What?
Many lawfully present immigrants with U.S. citizen children will withdraw from public benefit programs to which they are legally entitled. This will lead to increases in hunger, homelessness, and healthcare crises for families whose fear of having their legal status removed and/or of being deported will prompt them to withdraw from support programs. This rule also applies to Legal Permanent Residents and could affect their ability to apply for citizenship.

Congress should conduct hearings on the assumptions and analysis underlying the proposed Rule and urge DHS to address the full anticipated impact of implementing this Rule on families, many of which include U.S. citizens, and on the economy and local communities. The Administration should be urged to modify the Rule to make it less arbitrary, more humane, economically sound and fiscally responsible.

The fiscal benefits assumed by the Department of Homeland Security are based on flawed data and analysis, according to the CATO Institute. The vast majority of immigrants who seek to adjust status are ineligible for almost all federal means-tested benefits programs, so the true fiscal impact of this rule will be quite small. On the other hand, the loss of status by tax-paying immigrants will result in substantial tax revenue losses. This is not accounted for in the analysis by DHS.


“New Rule to Deny Status to Immigrants Up to 95% Self-Sufficient,” by David Bier, CATO Institute, September 24, 2018
“New Trump Rule isn’t about saving Taxpayer Money; It’s about Keeping Legal Immigrants Out”, by David Bier, The Washington Examiner, September 24, 2018 and re-posted to CATO Institute
Nearly 20 Million Children Live in Immigrant Families that Could Be Affected by Evolving Immigration Policies,” by Samantha Artiga and Anthony Damico, Kaiser Family Foundation, April 18, 2018
“Trump’s Latest Immigration Curbs Threaten Older Adults Who Need Personal Care,” by Howard Gleckman, Forbes.com, September 26, 2018