CommunityConnect Labs

Addressing Public Charge Head-On

On Aug. 12, 2019, the Trump administration announced a new rule that would modify “public charge” policies and would go into effect on October 15th. The proposed rule was met with criticism and lawsuits, which temporarily blocked it from going into effect. Due to all of the uncertainty around Public Charge and the new proposed rule, the Grove Foundation hosted the Public Charge Community Forum on October 31st to discuss new developments and showcase new public charge screening tools developed by CommunityConnect Labs and Immigration Advocates Network.

Galvanizing to Combat Public Charge

The forum began with an inspirational talk from Deputy Chief of San Mateo Health Department, Srija Srinivasan. She mentioned how the proposed changes to public charge “galvanized us to combat not only the legalities, but the chilling effect that it produced.” The chilling effects consist of people disenrolling from public benefits out of fear, despite being eligible for those benefits. Unfortunately, families are now unsure about whether their kids can go to school or get the medications that they need due to the new rules.

Nonetheless, as Srinavasan mentioned “It’s not about one group of people, it’s about all of us as a community!” Numerous community partners are coming together to combat the changes. Legal Aid, for example, has been a key resource as they have helped San Mateo County to be as safe and freedom-providing as possible.

The Chilling Effect

Directing Attorney at Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, Hope Nakamura, took the stage to discuss the realities of the chilling effect and how many are beginning to disenroll from their benefits. The chilling effect is primarily affecting children; parents are disenrolling from Medical and their children aren’t getting the health benefits they need.

Nakamura also provided information about who the rule applies to, what benefits are taken into consideration, and what other circumstances count in a public charge test.

  • Potentially Affected: those applying for visas to enter the United States, those applying for Legal Permanent Residency through family members, or a Legal Permanent Resident trying to reenter the United States after six months.
  • Benefits Considered: Primarily  cash benefits, such as SSI, CalWORKS, CAPI, and long-term care Medical.
  • Additional Circumstances: age, health, family status, education, and income.

The Legal Battle

Several lawsuits have been filed against the proposed rules which have delayed the effective date of the new rule. Tanya Broder, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Center spoke about the legal battles that are ensuing and how they affect the proposed rule. Due to the delays, the 1999 Field Guidance is still in effect and applies to those with impending Green Card interviews in the United States. For these interviews, the government is looking at the person’s age, income, health, education, and family and only cash assistance programs are taken into consideration. Other health care, nutrition, or housing benefits are not considered and positive factors can be balanced against negative factors.

The Trump Administration has also attempted to issue the Proclamation On Health Insurance Requirements which would require would-be immigrants to have health insurance ready in the first 30 days of entry or resources to pay for their long term health insurance costs, such as employer-based coverage or a family member plan. The proclamation was meant to go into effect on November 3rd, but has been blocked by U.S. District Judge Michael Simon.

CCL, Legal Aid, And Immigration Advocates Network Partner to Create A Screening Solution

With all the uncertainty and confusion around immigration policies, it is important for immigrants to feel safe and to understand their rights and eligibility for assistance. CommunityConnect Labs along with Immigration Advocates Network and Legal Aid of San Mateo has created a screening solution to help immigrants navigate the uncertainty. The solution walks individuals through a series of questions to help them understand whether they are at risk of being labeled a public charge. The pilot is now available in English, Spanish, and Chinese online and via text messaging.


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