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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Opposes the Administration’s “Public Charge” Proposal

In yet another attack on immigrants, this weekend the Trump Administration announced their proposal to change the “public charge” rule (PDF). The changes proposed would be devastating to immigrant families by making it harder for immigrants, and especially disabled and poor immigrants, to enter the US or become legal permanent residents. NCIL strongly opposes this proposal.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingUnder US law, individuals seeking admission to the US or seeking to become lawful permanent residents (green card holders) can be denied if they are found likely to become a “public charge”. Currently, the term “public charge” refers to an individual who is likely to become “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence” by either the receipt of public cash assistance or institutionalization for long-term care – a definition that clearly already disproportionately impacts disabled immigrants. The proposed changes would significantly broaden the definition of “public charge” to include immigrants who receive one or more public benefits, dramatically expanding the benefits that could be considered to include non-emergency Medicaid (with a few exceptions), housing assistance, SNAP, and certain healthcare subsidies. Immigrant families could be denied entry or residency if they use, or are “likely” to use, any of this wide range of assistance programs. 

Additionally, a variety of other factors would be used to make a public charge determination, again targeting disabled and low-income immigrants. For instance, the presence of a medical condition likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization, or that may interfere with the ability to provide for oneself, or to attend school or work, would be considered a heavily weighed negative factor. Similarly, lack of private health insurance (or lack of financial resources to pay for medical costs) and having an income under 125% of the Federal Poverty Level would be heavily weighed negative factors as well.

The current definition of “public charge” already discriminates against immigrants with disabilities, but with the proposed changes, disabled and low-income immigrants are right in the crosshairs. Kelly Buckland, NCIL’s Executive Director, said “This proposal is just the latest in a long list of attacks on immigrant families. Immigrants, including disabled immigrants, contribute so much to our country. This proposal would be devastating to so many immigrants seeking to enter the US or become legal permanent residents, and particularly people with disabilities and low-income individuals and families.”

This proposal makes it clear: you are only welcome in this country if you’re healthy, nondisabled, and wealthy. If the rule is finalized as proposed, poor and disabled immigrants will be far less likely to come to the US and less likely to be permitted to stay. Immigrants currently residing in the US will be even more afraid to use needed benefits in fear of being denied a green card. This policy would effectively force families to choose between the assistance they need to survive – like food, healthcare, and housing – and legal residency in the US.

Our strength comes from our diversity, and immigrants strengthen our communities and our country. This policy would unquestionably cause harm to our nation’s immigrants and it would further disparities that already exist in this country. NCIL opposes this discriminatory and harmful policy.

You can learn more about the public charge proposal at