The federal public charge rule takes effect today, February 24, 2020. The rule will make it harder for people who have used public benefits in the past to get their green cards going forward.
“This rule I think is going to radically transform who gets to get their green cards in this country, ” Hasan Shafiqullah, attorney-in-charge of the Immigration Law Unit at the Legal Aid Society said during a media event organized earlier today by NYC’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
Although the rule only applies to people whose green card applications are postmarked today or later, New York City has already seen people disenrolling from public benefits at higher rates in neighborhoods with higher populations of non-citizen immigrants, city data shows.
“Medicaid enrollment for children who are citizens, but [live] with an immigrant parent has dropped significantly,” said Chris Keeley of NYC Health and Hospitals referring to a recent report from Families NYC. “That’s across the country.”
How The Rule Works
If the federal government believes you are ever likely to use public benefits for 12 months out of any given 36 months, the new rule means that they can deny a green card application. If you used multiple public benefits in one month, each separate benefit will be counted as one month of benefits. In this way, you could reach 12 months of benefits usage in well-under 12 months.
In addition to this, having an income of less than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines, being under 18 or over 61, having limited English proficiency, having a large family size, being unemployed, having a disability, or debt/low credit score can all make it harder for you to receive a green card.
If you have an income of over 250% of the federal poverty guidelines – a household of four would need to earn more than $62,000 to meet the threshold – or if you are applying for a green card and have also received asylum or refugee status, you will not be affected.
Who Will Be Most Affected?
The new rule is expected to mostly affect family immigration. All the city officials and experts at the roundtable stressed that people should not disenroll from public benefits. If you have any questions about the rule, you should consult with a lawyer, which you can do for free through the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
Although an earlier leaked draft of the public charge rule did include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (also known as WIC) in the list of benefits that count against those applying for green cards, the final rule does not include WIC.
WIC enrollment has declined more than triple in the city’s zip codes with the highest numbers of non-citizens compared with those zip codes with the lowest number of non-citizens.
Chris Keeley of NYC Health and Hospitals stressed that people should continue accessing the care and services they always have.
“Access to healthcare is not changed by this. If you have a doctor, continue seeing that doctor,” Keeley said. “If you don’t have a doctor, you can do that, and please do.” On their website, you can find information about various types of immigration status and the types of healthcare you can have. That information is available on the site in 13 languages.
Jessica Young of Make the Road New York stressed that the public charge rule is still being challenged in court. Make the Road New York has information on their website that will help you determine if you’re impacted by the rule.
You can call the Action NYC hotline at 800-354-0365 if you have any questions about the public charge rule and its effects, and they will connect you with a lawyer.