The Public-Charge Rule: Broad Impacts, But Few Will Be Denied Green Cards Based on Actual Benefits Use

Randy Capps, Julia Gelatt and Mark Greenberg
Date of Publication: 
March, 2020
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) reports that the massive immigrant disenrollment in public benefit programs was apparent even before the “chilling effects” of the so-called “public charge” rule, issued by the Trump administration on February 24, 2020. Many immigrants, even those not directly impacted by the rule, feared that accepting public benefits would impact their green card applications. However, the authors explain that very few immigrants could be deemed ineligible for a green card for using public benefits, as very few of these benefits are even available to noncitizens who do not already hold green cards.  Only about 167,000, or one percent of the 22.1 million noncitizens in the U.S., could be affected by this rule. These individuals would have come through mainly humanitarian immigration channels and would have been both eligible for these benefits and subject to the public charge rule. Beyond the massive chilling effects, the commentary suggests that, despite its relatively limited reach, the rule will have broad impacts on the future of U.S. immigration. The public charge rule is a forward-looking test, and tasks USCIS to determine (and reject) applicants who may need access to public benefits at any point in the future. This forward-looking rule could reshape U.S. immigration by decreasing levels of permanent immigration and allowing only the wealthy and well-educated to obtain green cards. (Samantha Jones for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Capps, R., Gelatt, J. & Greenberg, M. (2020, March). The Public-Charge Rule: Broad Impacts, But Few Will Be Denied Green Cards Based on Actual Benefits Use. Migration Policy Institute.