DHS proposes rule to ignore immigrants’ use of SNAP, CHIP, Medicaid when considering green card applications

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DHS Secretary Mayorkas said a Trump-era rule was ‘not consistent with our nation’s values’

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The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday proposed a new “public charge” rule that would dramatically scale back the number of benefits legal immigrants can use that would be held against them when applying for permanent residency in the United States, including food stamps and Medicaid. 

The proposed change would mark a significant reversal from a 2019 Trump administration policy, which is no longer in effect since the Biden administration dropped it after deciding not to defend it against legal challenges.

“Under this proposed rule, we will return to the historical understanding of the term ‘public charge,’ and individuals will not be penalized for choosing to access the health benefits and other supplemental government services available to them,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

The “public charge” has been a long-standing concept in immigration law. It refers to someone deemed likely to rely on government assistance and is a condition for denying someone immigration status.

The Trump administration introduced a “public charge” rule in 2019 that expanded the definition of “public charge” to include an immigrant who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period. Whether an immigrant would be a “public charge” would be considered when the immigrant applied for permanent residency in the U.S.

Those benefits include Supplemental Security Income (SSI), cash assistance under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), as well as most forms of Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. The rule expands the number of benefits that can be considered from interim guidance issued in 1999.

Trump administration officials said the rule was intended to protect taxpayers from bringing in more public charges from abroad and to make sure that immigrants coming to the U.S. legally are self-sufficient.

By Adam Shaw

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