Between a Rock and a Hard Place

New “public charge” rules would force immigrant families to make impossible choices

National JFON vehemently opposes a new proposal by the Trump Administration that would change how “public charge” is defined and would make it more difficult for low-income immigrants to obtain lawful permanent residence.

The rule would exacerbate problems in this country ranging from child poverty to homelessness to education, as many immigrants would shy away from basic services for fear of being penalized.

We at Justice for Our Neighbors stand against any measure that forces families to decide between seeking to be together and seeking to be healthy. Can you imagine having to choose between applying for a green card for your spouse or applying for school lunches for your child?

A “public charge” is an individual who has become or is likely to become primarily dependent on the use of federal public assistance programs. For immigrants, if the government determines that the individual is likely to become a “public charge,” it can deny the individual from entering the United States or obtaining lawful permanent residence (green card status).  However, this proposal would vastly expand the types of public benefits and assistance that would be considered when determining a public charge.  Thus, low-income immigrants would be targeted and less likely to be able to live united and lawfully here in the U.S.

As an example of how drastically this measure would limit future opportunities for low-income immigrants, consider this.  One “heavily weighted negative factor” for someone seeking admission or a green card would be if the household income is not sufficiently high.  This means, to avoid scrutiny under the new standards in the public charge test, a family of 4 would need to earn nearly $63,000 annually.

Virtually no JFON clients earn that much. Furthermore, in a recent study, the  Migration Policy Institute concluded that “2.3 million of the 4 million legally present non-citizens who arrived during the past five years (56 percent) do not have incomes sufficient to meet the 250 percent standard. In fact, “40 percent of U.S.-born persons would be unable to meet that threshold.”

This proposed rule change would not apply to all immigrants.  Many common JFON clients would be exempted, including asylees, refugees, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) petitioners, and Special Immigrant JuvenilesThe proposal is not retroactive and would not apply to legal permanent residents who are seeking to become U.S. citizens.  Rather, these public charge policies would affect those applying for adjustment of status in the United States, individuals seeking to enter the U.S. from abroad, and individuals who must go abroad to process their application for legal permanent resident status. This includes family-based visas and non-immigrant visas such as tourist and employment-based visas.

Now that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released the public charge proposal in the Federal Register, all of us have until Monday, December 10th to submit comments. We urge you to voice your opposition to this proposal now.

Please click on the image to submit your comment! The deadline is Monday, December 10, 2018.

Submitting a public comment doesn’t need to be hard or intimidating. Our JFON affiliate in Nebraska, Immigrant Legal Center, has offered some sample comments.  Click here to submit your own unique comment. Or if you prefer, you can submit a template comment here.

In addition, you can call Congress to let them know you oppose these changes and want your elected officials to stop them. Our friends at Church World Service have made this easy: Click here to receive a phone call to connect with your 2 Senators and 1 Representative.

Sample Script: “As your constituent, I am opposed to the administration’s proposed rule change that would broaden the definition of ‘public charge’ to keep families separated and immigrants out. I ask you to oppose these changes and to do everything in your power to prevent the administration from implementing them.”

Justice for Our Neighbors remains steadfastly opposed to policies that prevent access to justice for immigrants, especially for those who are vulnerable.  Together, we must stand up for immigrants who simply seek what any of us would want for our families: to be safe, to be healthy, and to be together. Please join us in stopping this proposal before it’s too late.

Thank you,



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Immigration Issues