On the morning of October 10th, ​​the proposed public charge rule was published in the Federal Register.

This step kicks off the official 60 day period for the public to submit comments​ before it is finalized – the public comment period ends December 10, 2018. Submitting comments to express opposition communicates our mission to feed anyone facing hunger in our service communities.

Here are the topline details you need to know about this proposal from an anti-hunger perspective:

  • The proposed changes will impact legal immigrant families and increase their likelihood of being food insecure.
  • For the first time, accessing food assistance through SNAP would threaten an individual’s lawful residency and citizenship.
  • SNAP was designed by Congress to be there for immigrants during difficult times, and eligibility reflects that intent; this rule would roll back that longstanding principle by penalizing individuals for their legally-authorized use of SNAP benefits.
  • SNAP is the only federal nutrition program that would be added to the list of programs considered in a public charge determination.

Background on Public Charge and the Proposed Rule Changes

The Department of Homeland Security is proposed a rule change to the definition of ‘Public Charge.’ According to the document, reclassifying Public Charge would make it harder for immigrants to become permanent residences and could be deported if they or their US-born children receive certain government benefits. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the only feeding program included. The proposed changes could have a major impact on the people we serve.

What is Public Charge?

  • Public Charge is the principle that people who are likely to “become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence” will not be allowed to become legal permanent residents in the United States
    • Public charge does not apply to humanitarian immigrants, such as refugees, or legal permanent residents (i.e. those holding a green card)
  • Currently, determination of public charge only includes receipt of public cash assistance programs (like cash TANF or state cash assistance) or government funded long-term institutional healthcare
    • NOT included: Federal Nutrition Programs including SNAP, WIC, School Lunch, TEFAP; and many other non-cash services (child care, housing benefits, Medicaid, etc.)

What are the current rules on public charge and federal nutrition programs?

  • Certain non-citizens are eligible to participate in SNAP and other federal nutrition programs:
  • Non-citizens eligible to participate include: Refugees, trafficking victims, legal permanent residents (green card holders), asylees, US citizens who are the children of non-citizens

What would the Proposed Rule do?

  • Instruct the Department of Homeland Security to expand public charge and its implications on visa status and deportations.
    • The language says it would apply to: “public benefits for which eligibility or amount is determined in any way on the basis of income, resources, or financial need.

How would the Proposed Rule impact Federal Nutrition Programs?

  • As written, the rule does not directly change eligibility criteria for federal nutrition programs.
  • It would likely increase the stigma of immigrant communities and further reduce the willingness and ability of eligible non-citizens to participate in federal nutrition programs ​

Current laws, regulations, guidance and practice remains unchanged, including:

  • ​Public Charge does not apply to refugees or legal permanent residents (i.e. those with a green card) and others. [see USCIS Q&A]
  • SNAP state agencies may not report to USCIS individuals ​​not lawfully present in the US who apply for SNAP benefits for other household members or strictly for their children. [see USDA guide for non-citizen eligibility in SNAP, p.48-51]
    • State agencies must report only individuals seeking to receive SNAP benefits for themselves and only when they meet certain requirements. ​​

We are in regular communication with national anti-hunger and immigration experts and will update this page as we receive new information. For questions, please contact Emily Weikert Bryant at ewbryant@feedingindianashungry.org.

Other resources:

USDA SNAP specific information:

USCIS details on public charge

National Immigration Law Center Public Charge Fact Sheet​

Center for Law and Social Policy Public Charge Publication​

National Immigration Law Center: Overview of Immigrant Eligibility for Federal Programs, Dec 2015​

CBPP: The Applicability of “Public Charge” Rules to Legal Immigrants Who Are Eligible for Public Benefits, Apr 2004​ (while old, this is still relevant as there have been no official changes to-date on public charge)