Changes to Public Charge Determination Threaten Immigrant Families

October 19, 2018

By Carrie Warick, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Last week, the Trump administration proposed changes to the "public charge" determination that is part of the visa evaluation for immigrants. This determination allows immigration officials to consider whether an immigrant will become reliant on government assistance, and it can be used to deny visas. For a fuller definition that you can share with families, please see this resources page from Protecting Immigrant Families, a collaboration between the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).

While this review has always included cash benefits like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Trump administration is proposing that more programs be added to the review list. The expanded list would include government supports such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Importantly, free and reduced-price lunch and Title IV federal student aid, including the Pell Grant, are not included. However, NCAN is already hearing from a few members that families are concerned about filing the FAFSA due to misinformation about these changes.

Besides sharing the Protecting Immigrant Families website, here are some additional messages you can relay to your students and their parents:

  • These changes are still a proposal and have not taken effect. You should continue to participate in all federal benefits programs for now.
  • Even if these changes do take effect, the Pell Grant is not part of the proposal. Filing the FAFSA will not jeopardize the immigration standing of your parents or family members.

Students who are eligible for federal student aid as permanent residents, green card holders, or citizens are not subject to public charge review. However, there could be fear that parents and family members working to get visas would be affected by a student’s financial aid receipt, which is not the case now nor will it be, even if this rule is implemented.

If this rule does go into place, students' access to healthcare, food, and other benefits could decrease if their parents decide to stop participating in these programs. These barriers will make it even more difficult for students to focus on their studies and college plans.

NCAN will continue to monitor the development of this proposal and alert members to any action opportunities. Members who would like to file a comment about the rule, either as an organization or individual, may do so on the Federal Register notice by Dec. 10.

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