Proposed Changes to the Public Charge Rule in Immigration - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director recently claimed that the famous poetry on the Statue of Liberty – “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus – referred mostly to European immigrants. Cuccinelli also added his own twist in an interview with NPR, stating that it should say, “Give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

So what is a public charge, and what kinds of changes has the current administration proposed?

What is a Public Charge?

The term public charge refers to a person who is primarily dependent on the government for support. That could include using a form of welfare or public assistance that tax dollars pay for. The government currently determines who’s likely to become a public charge by having an immigration officer look at a person’s “totality of circumstances,” such as the person’s:

  • Age
  • Health
  • Family status
  • Financial status
  • Education and skills

Not all immigrants have to undergo this “public charge test.” Some immigrants who fall under humanitarian categories, like refugees and asylees, may not have to show that they won’t become a public charge; in some cases, certain immigrants qualify for a public charge waiver.

Related: 3 myths about Mexican immigration debunked

What Changes Could Occur?

If the proposed changes take effect:

  • More programs can be considered when determining whether someone is likely to become a public charge, like some healthcare, housing and food programs
  • Income levels may be considered
  • Other standards might fall under the “totality of circumstances,” such as a person’s ability to speak English, as well as physical and mental health conditions that could affect the person’s ability to work

The proposed changes have not yet taken effect, but if they do, they could cut down legal immigration as early as October 15 of this year.

Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney in Milwaukee?

If you’re considering immigrating to the United States, we may be able to help you. Call us at 414-383-6700 to set an appointment for a consultation to discuss your situation with a Milwaukee immigration attorney today.

Carlos Gamino