Public charge FAQ: information and resources

What is the public charge rule? What’s changing?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is implementing a new rule that will change a policy regulating the future status of immigrants who are deemed likely to use public benefits. By issuing the new rule, the DHS is redefining a “public charge” – previously a person who is “likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence” – as a person who is likely to “receive one or more public benefit” within any 36-month period. The rule also expands the list of benefits that can affect someone’s future status. The rule effectively broadens and redefines restrictions on future eligibility for resident status based on likely use of government services.

When is this happening?

The rule will go into effect on Feb. 24, 2020, except in Illinois, where a U.S. District Court injunction is pending litigation.

The rule does not apply retroactively, so any benefits received before Feb. 24, 2020 will not be counted against applicants.

Is the legal fight over?

While there are still pending lawsuits, most notably in Illinois, and more challenges to the rule are likely, the Jan. 27, 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for the rule to take effect in most of the country. While we’re hopeful that a future challenge might prevail, the time to respond to the rule’s impact is now.

Who does this rule impact?

The rule does not apply to all immigrants. It primarily impacts those seeking permanent status. For more, see this guide provided by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.  

In addition, research shows that confusion and fear resulting from the rule will discourage immigrant residents (including those with children who are U.S. citizens) from engaging with critical benefits and services for which they are legally eligible. This so-called “chilling effect” will mean immigrants are less likely to access preventive health care, emergency health care, immunizations, nutrition assistance programs, housing assistance, reduced-price school lunch programs, and more, threatening the health and well-being of entire communities.

Why does Blue Shield of California Foundation oppose the public charge rule?

The rule threatens unacceptable short- and long-term negative health effects for communities across California. Public opinion research shows that it will discourage immigrant residents from accessing services for which they are legally eligible: preventive health services, CalFresh nutrition assistance, immunization services, and reduced-price school meals – programs and services that benefit entire communities.

As a Foundation, we believe that all people should be treated with respect and have access to services and opportunities that allow them to thrive. We believe that when all members of our communities, both newcomers and long-term residents, can contribute fully, our communities will be healthier, and our shared future will be brighter. We believe that strengthening the bonds of community – not severing them – is the way to build a California full of possibility and opportunity for all of us.

It’s our mission to make California the healthiest state and to end domestic violence. In a state where half of our children have at least one immigrant parent, it’s clear that the danger of widespread disenrollment from public benefits extends far beyond the rule’s stated scope. This rule threatens the health and well-being of communities across California.

What is the Foundation doing to help communities impacted by the public charge rule?

As a health funder, 23% of our funding in 2019 went toward supporting the resilience of immigrant communities. We looked at the geographies that would be hardest hit by public charge and funded community foundations in those areas to deepen their work to support immigrant communities.

We’ll continue working to protect the gains made by vulnerable communities in our state and to build resilience and promote inclusion for California’s immigrant residents.

What can I do to help mitigate the negative effects of the rule?

Whether you’re about meeting immediate, short-term needs, or seeing and mitigating the long-term impacts of the rule, we all have a role to play.

To start, we can learn the facts about public charge and ensure that accurate information is getting to the communities the rule impacts. The links below provide additional information on the public charge rule, its effects, and action steps for responding.

Background information:

Impact of the public charge rule:

Recommendations for philanthropy:

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