Recent policy changes for immigrants have come down from the federal level, including new “public charge” rules. Since the 1800s, a public charge has referred to a person who is not capable of supporting themselves. This means that they are dependent upon government assistance to survive. Under the old rule, a public charge may have relied upon federal, state, or local government help for income maintenance. They may also have relied upon government aid for long-term care.

The New Public Charge Rules

The new public charge rules will extend the definition of what it means to be dependent upon government assistance. Under the extension, officials may consider someone a public charge if they use a public benefit for 12 months. Under the new rule, a public benefit will refer to a specific list of social safety net services. This list includes food stamps (SNAP), Medicaid, and housing assistance, among others. If someone uses two of these public benefits in one month, the new rule will count this as two months’ worth of benefits used, and so on.

For immigrants, these new public charge rules are very important. Immigration officials could deny certain legal statuses or admission to any immigrant deemed a public charge. For immigrants already in the country, if immigration agents determine that they are a public charge, officials may deny the immigrant’s green card application.

Naturally, the new public charge rules are inciting fear in San Jose’s immigrant families. Starting on October 15, immigrants who use certain public benefits for an extended period risk having their green cards denied. As a result, many families all over the country are not signing their children up for free or reduced school lunches out of fear of the new rule. Some are avoiding food banks. Others are withdrawing from WIC, a program that helps low-income families with various support services. Many are also avoiding medical services out of fear for their legal status.

However, some of these precautions are misguided. The new public charge rules outline a specific list of public benefits that are relevant. Many local immigrant families are mistakenly avoiding public services that do not apply. Furthermore, there are special provisions and exemptions for certain groups. Children under 21 can access some services as can those who are pregnant and military personnel.

Contact Our San Jose Immigration Lawyers for More Information

The new public charge rules can be complex. To understand how best to follow them, contact our San Jose immigration lawyers. We can help you determine which public services your family can receive, and which members of your family are exempt. This way, you can support yourself and your family while also remaining eligible for your green card. For more information, call us at (408) 542-0499 or reach out through our online contact form.