Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

Protecting Washington’s Immigrant Families

Protecting Immigrant Families WA campaign image

The Trump White House has proposed new regulations that would force immigrant families to make an impossible choice between meeting their children’s basic needs and obtaining permanent legal status in the United States.

How? By changing the scope of the “public charge” rule.

What is public charge?

Federal immigration officials apply a “public charge” test to some categories of immigrants who seek legal permanent residence status (a green card) in the country. The longstanding definition says a person constitutes a public charge when primarily dependent on public assistance (cash assistance or Medicaid long-term care) to live.

In January 2018, the Trump Administration changed the instructions to U.S. consulates so that consular officials have more discretion in evaluating a sponsor's affidavit of support and the public benefit use by applicants, sponsors, or family members. In October 2018, the administration announced that they also want to change the public charge rules for immigrants applying for lawful permanent status within the U.S. If that plan becomes final, immigration officials will look more closely at certain factors like health, age, English language skill, and the use of public programs.

As of June 2019, the proposal has not been finalized. Public charge rules for people eligible to apply for a green card within the U.S. have NOT changed. Advocates from across the country have submitted more than 260,000 comments opposing the administration's plan, and the government is still reviewing those comments.

If Trump's plan takes effect, it would be easier to deny legal residency to individuals who have used one or more forms of public assistance such as food, health care, or housing. The administration’s effort to expand the definition and application of the public charge test effectively withholds essential public services from many of the 1 in 4 Washington children growing up in immigrant families. The result: poorer health, more hunger and greater inequity for children and families, particularly for immigrant communities of color.

That’s wrong. Every family should be free to use the essential services they are legally entitled to and need to live.

The proposed changes to public charge policy in the U.S. are not final, but they are already causing significant harm. Fear and confusion—known as the chilling effect—are causing people to disenroll from programs or forgo benefits for which they are eligible.



To find out whether public charge rules apply to you, check out this fact sheet.

Read more information on the proposed changes. For additional information in other languages, browse the national Protecting Immigrant Families community resources.

Join our efforts. Share your own family’s experience with the essential services Trump would deny Washington’s kids. You can still fight back by speaking up! If you think this rule could impact you or your family, you can share your story to help policymakers understand how this proposal hurts families.

Sign up for e-mails from the Protecting Immigrant Families - Washington State campaign.

Finally, get a list of free or low-cost legal resources that can help those who may be subject to the proposed rule.

Protecting Immigrant Families - Washington State is a broad coalition of more than 30 nonprofit, public, and private sector organizations working to address the impact of potential changes to the public charge rule. It includes Children’s Alliance, OneAmerica, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Northwest Health Law Advocates, Northwest Harvest, the Washington State Hospital Association, and many others. We are part of the national Protecting Immigrant Families, Advancing Our Future Campaign, co-chaired by the Center for Law and Social Policy and the National Immigration Law Center.