Chilling Effects: The Expected Public-Charge Rule and Its Impact on Immigrant Families
Mark Greenberg, MPI Senior Fellow and former Acting Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Michael Fix, MPI Senior Fellow
Jeanne Batalova, MPI Senior Policy Analyst
Margie McHugh, Director, National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, MPI
The Trump administration is finalizing a proposed rule that could have wide-reaching effects on legal immigration to the United States and the ability of immigrants legally present in the country to qualify for green cards or otherwise adjust their legal status. Drafts of the rule, leaked in January and March 2018, suggest the measure would make sweeping changes in how use of—or likelihood to use—public benefits is taken into consideration in immigration-related decision-making. Some versions of the draft go so far as to suggest that legally present noncitizens could become subject to deportation if they use benefits and services for which they qualify.
Based on experience with prior reforms of immigration and welfare legislation, it is reasonable to anticipate that the rule will discourage millions of immigrants from accessing health, nutrition, and social services that benefit not only them, but also their U.S.-citizen children. Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest this chilling effect is already taking place, as service providers report some immigrant clients dropping out and others failing to access benefits for which they are eligible.
On this webinar, Migration Policy Institute (MPI) experts discussed the anticipated public-charge regulation, how it differs from current policy, its effects on immigrants and their U.S.-born children, and how the proposed rule could affect future benefits usage. The discussion featured findings from an MPI report that draws upon U.S. Census Bureau data to assess the level of benefits use by noncitizens, naturalized citizens, and the U.S. born in four major means-tested benefit programs to better understand the potential magnitude of the proposed rule’s possible chilling effects. The report provides an overview of the historical context for this proposal and of how the current public-charge provision is used. And it sketches some of the likely implications for immigrant integration, federalism, and immigration policy.