Tools & Resources

Deadline: December 10, 2018

We’ve already seen countless attacks on immigrant families over the past two years including the elimination of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and TPS (Temporary Protected Status), the separation of families at the border and in detention facilities and the increased flow of federal money into more detention and incarceration of immigrants. Now, in addition to targeting undocumented people, the Trump Administration has stepped up efforts to target immigrants who are in the United States with papers by stripping them of the opportunity to get permanent legal status or green cards through proposed changes to the “public charge” rule that is used to make determinations about permanent legal status for immigrants.

The proposed change to the public charge rule would expand the list of public services and criteria that immigration officials could consider when making determinations about immigrant status, resulting in the denial of green cards or permanent legal status based on the use or the anticipated use of some public services like Medicaid, SNAP or housing assistance commonly used by low-wage working families.

*scroll down to see how Faith Leaders can help

What is “public charge?”

“Public charge” is a long- standing immigration policy designed to identify people who are likely to become primarily dependent on government services to meet their basic needs.  The government can deny someone admission to the United States or deny them permanent legal status (or a green card) if officials determine that the person may become a “public charge” to the United States. Currently, immigration officials consider a short list of public resources in these determinations:

  • Cash assistance such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Government-funded long-term care in institutions.

What changes are being proposed?

The proposed changes would expand the list of public services that could be used in determinations about permanent status to include key programs that are used widely by low-income families like:

  • Medicaid coverage including Medicaid-funded community and home-based care for people with disabilities (small exceptions for emergency care, some disabilities services tied to education)
  • SNAP or food stamps
  • Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidies
  • Housing Assistance including Section 8 housing vouchers and rental assistance

In addition, the proposed rule adopts new criteria that could be considered as factors against granting someone a green card or permanent legal status.

  • It proposes new income requirements for immigrants, requiring that the immigrant earn at least 125% of FPL and favoring those who have household incomes of 250% of FPL or higher. To avoid scrutiny under the new rule, a family of 4 would need to earn nearly $63,000 annually.
  • In addition to income, the rule proposes new standards to consider when evaluating criteria for determinations including age, health and education. These rules would disadvantage applicants with limited English proficiency, physical or mental health challenges and disabilities.

The rule could impact millions of immigrant families, denying them health care, food, housing and other services because of the fear that using these services would put permanent status at risk. Fear is already spreading through immigrant communities and causing immigrants to forgo needed services because of anxiety about how the use of these programs might endanger permanent status.

*How Can Faith Leaders Help?

Right now, the federal government is accepting comments on their proposed rule change and anyone who cares about this issue can weigh in with a comment. The more individual comments that are submitted, the more time we have to influence the final rule so it’s critical that everyone who cares about immigrant families weigh in. The deadline for these comments is on or before December 10, 2018.  


Criteria for Comments:

Use these guidelines to generate your own original comment that makes a short case about your perspective and communicates your opposition. Your comments should be:

  • Relevant to the impact of the rule: they should describe how taking away these services harms you, your family, your constituency or your community.
  • Direct and reader-friendly: the reader should know in the first paragraph what your position is and in every subsequent paragraph you should make clear statements about why you object.
  • Written in your own words as much as possible: so that reviewers actually have to look at each comment rather than consider comments in bulk.
  • Should not include questions, suggestions or mention of programs that are not included in the rule change proposal. We object to this rule outright and we should make that clear. We should not open opportunity for the agency to add or consider additional harmful changes based on our comments.

Part I: Introduce yourself, your congregation and describe why you are commenting.

FOR EXAMPLE: As a minister of a diverse congregation/in a diverse community, I am writing today to strongly oppose the proposed changes to the public charge rule that would l undermine access to essential health, nutrition and housing supports for immigrants and their family.  The proposed changes would greatly disadvantage poor working families that depend on social safety net programs like Medicaid and SNAP, have harmful impacts on their children and unfairly punish those who come to our country with the least advantages.

Part II: Make a short case or list more specific reasons for objecting to the proposed rule change.

FOR EXAMPLE: This rule change is contrary to the United States’ legacy as a nation that welcomes immigrants and recognizes the tremendous contributions that they have made and continue to make to our economy, culture and communities.

[Insert your story or an example of someone in your congregation or community who would be impacted because they get healthcare from Medicaid or they depend on SNAP or housing assistance. Detail briefly your (or their) struggles and how this rule change has created fear for your (or their) family and puts your (or their) healthcare and other basic services at risk]

Using these kind of benefits to deny status to documented immigrants seeking permanent residence hurts entire families:  when parents can’t get health care, SNAP, housing and other services, their children suffer because they are part of the same household. We know that outcomes for children whose parents don’t have healthcare are diminished compared to children who have insured parents. Immigrants who can’t get permanent status may be forced to leave the country, potentially separating even more families and removing parents from their children.

Our faith teaches us to welcome strangers and to love our neighbors, to value family and to treat everyone fairly. This proposed rule change discriminates against immigrants who are in the United States legally, following the rules, working hard and paying taxes that actually contribute to supporting these social safety net programs. This rule also unfairly targets poorer immigrants who have less education, fewer english skills and are more likely to qualify for these programs because they are typically concentrated in the lowest paying jobs in our country.

It’s not fair to use usage of Medicaid, SNAP, housing assistance to deny immigrants permanent status, forcing them to choose between critical life-saving services and a green card. This is an impossible and immoral choice to force on immigrant families.

Part III: Reiterate your position and ask for the administration to withdraw this proposal.

FOR EXAMPLE: I oppose this proposed rule change because it fundamentally contradicts our nation’s historic commitment to welcoming immigrants. It puts our economy at risk and strips immigrant families of the services and supports they need to flourish and contribute, instead spreading fear and creating punitive consequences for using services they legally qualify to receive. The Trump Administration should immediately withdraw its proposal.

Submitting Comments:

Once your comments are ready, you can submit them directly by going to the site and clicking on the comments button in the right upper hand corner. It will ask you to add your comment and your contact information. Comments cannot be inserted anonymously.  These comments will be public so please make sure you messengers know that before the comment is inserted and submitted.

All comments should be submitted in English. Submitting comments to a federal agency about a proposed rule change is a 501(c)3 activity and is not considered lobbying under the law.

Please keep a copy of your comments so we can track how many comments are being submitted.


Remember, the deadline is December 10th to submit comments.


Protecting Immigrant Families:

Health Care Fact Sheet:

Immigrants in the Labor Force:

Impact of proposed Rule on Hunger in the U.S.