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Public Charge Immigration Changes to Take Effect

On January 31, 2020, the US Supreme Court decided that receipt of services like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will be added to the list of factors that count negatively against individuals seeking lawful residency or citizenship – even when those individuals are legally entitled to that assistance. The change takes effect February 24, 2020.

Currently, federal immigration policy allows officials to deny entry, or legal permanent residency, to immigrants on the basis that they are likely to become a public charge, or dependent on government benefits as their main source of support. This categorization is currently defined by the receipt of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits and Medicaid long-term care. Last summer, the Federal Administration introduced a rule (known as the “public charge rule”) to broaden the definition of public charge to include certain additional public services  such as SNAP.

Late last month, the US Supreme Court temporarily set aside the preliminary injunctions that prevented the public charge rule from taking effect nationwide. This was the last of the three district court nationwide injunctions in force, which means the ​Department of Homeland Security rule can go into effect nationwide, except in Illinois where it is blocked by a statewide injunction.​ ​This means the Federal Administration can move forward with a rule that expands the definition of a public charge to include individuals who have used essential public services that support good health and well-being as the courts continue to consider the rule’s overall legality.

This rule will create an impossible choice for people struggling to put food on the table. The proposal has already created fear and confusion, dissuading immigrant communities – regardless of whether they are impacted by the rule – from seeking food assistance

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