public-policy article

Guidance for Public Charge Comment Submissions

November 8, 2018

If you’ve been following immigration policy as of late, you know that the administration released its proposed public charge rule last month, and it is now open for public comment. The rule proposes a change to the definition of who the government defines as “likely to become a public charge.” Currently, a public charge is defined as “a person who is primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” The proposed rule would change this definition to an immigrant “who receives one or more public benefits.”

This determination is considered only when:

  • Someone applies to enter the U.S.
  • An immigrant applies to adjust their status to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)
  • A green card holder leaves the U.S. for more than 180 consecutive days (six months) and reenters.

Previously, only two kinds of benefits were considered in a public charge determination: cash assistance for income maintenance, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF,) and long-term care, namely institutionalization at the government’s expense. The proposed rule expands this list of benefits. For a full list of expanded benefits, check out our previous blog posts.

The rule has far-reaching consequences for children, families, and people with disabilities, as well as a significant impact on our economy. The National Assembly is drafting public comments on the rule for submittal to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and we urge your organization to do the same. It is imperative that public comments are unique and in your own words, so we have crafted a brief template for our network. While writing your comments, please highlight your own thoughts, expertise, and experiences.

Further, because the proposed rule would undermine the well-being of these key populations, we are asking DHS to withdraw it in its entirety. We do not advise suggesting corrective, or alternative, language of any kind. DHS also specifically asks for guidance regarding the addition of The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to the list of expanded benefits. We oppose this addition.

What to Include in Your Comments

The National Assembly is outlining the harmful impact of the rule on a few key demographics, but if your organization has more expertise in a particular area, such as child development, highlight your expertise and add points as needed. Below are the key points we are raising:

  1. The rule would negatively impact children and families:
    • Noncitizen parents are disincentivized from using benefits that help their children thrive. Parents’ well-being is an important determinant of children’s health and development, and children do best when their parents are healthy, their family has enough to eat, and they are economically stable. Further, use of these public benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are counted in a child’s public charge determination. This creates a chilling effect among parents who do not want to compromise their child’s prospects of becoming a U.S. citizen in the future, potentially creating food insecurity for their children, leaving them uninsured, and creating unstable housing situations.
    • A decrease in use of public benefits by children has the potential to harm communities as a whole.
    • High-income families are unfairly favored. The proposed rule changes the totality of circumstances test that
    • considers the income of an immigrant household in addition to the income of a financial sponsor. The new rule would only count the immigrant household income, making it more difficult for low- and moderate- income families to pass.
  2. The rule would discriminate against people with disabilities:
    • The rule specifically states that “any medical condition” of an applicant needing subsidized health insurance would count as a negative in their public charge determination. This includes both physical and mental health conditions that could affect a person’s ability to work, attend school, or care for themselves. This change would force those with disabilities to either risk failing their public charge test, or to refrain from reporting their condition and forgo health insurance or medical care.
  3. Immigration helps our economy grow with shared prosperity:
    • The total cost of the potential rule change to the U.S. economy could amount to $164.4 billion.
  4. Response to the administration’s request for comments regarding the addition of CHIP:
    • No additional programs should be considered in the public charge determination.

Where to Submit Your Comments

The Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition has provided a form for submitting your public comments on their website. Copy and paste your comments into the text box, and they will be submitted to

You can also submit comments to the federal register directly.