Chilling Effects: The Expected Public Charge Rule and Its Impact on Legal Immigrant Families’ Public Benefits Use

Report Author: 
Jeanne Batalova, Michael Fix, & Mark Greenberg
Original Date of Publication: 
June, 2018

The Trump Administration is currently writing a regulation that will completely change the way the government determines whether an immigrant (or an immigrant's sponsor) is "likely to become a public charge" by greatly expanding the list of public benefits, the use of which will make immigrants inadmissible (and possibly deportable). In Chilling Effects: The Expected Public Charge Rule and Its Impact on Legal Immigrant Families’ Public Benefits Use, the Migration Policy Institute reviews a leaked draft of the proposed rule, and provides data on the number of immigrants who use the four major means-tested public benefits for which data is available in the American Community Survey:  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), and Medicaid, the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or other public health insurance programs.

According to MPI's analysis, more than 6.8 million noncitizens used at least one of these programs, but a larger number-10.3 million-lived in households where at least one person--including U.S. citizen children--used one or more of these programs. The effect will be to raise the share of noncitizens for whom benefits use could be considered in a public charge determination from 3 percent today to 47 percent under the new rule. Most immigrants in benefits-receiving families are employed and use benefits as work supports.

In the estimation of the authors, the use of this new rule, once implemented, will allow the administration to drastically cut back on legal immigration--particularly family-based immigration--without having to go through Congress to change the law. Looking back at the experience of restrictions on the receipt of benefits imposed by the 1996 welfare reform law, MPI estimates that in total, between 20 and 60 percent of immigrants will disenroll from public benefits programs--even if they are entitled to them. While this study focused on benefits use, a future report will estimate the impact of the new rule on the future flow of immigrants. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Consulting)

 

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Citation: 

Batalova, J., Fix, M., & Greenberg, M. (2018). Chilling Effects: The Expected Public Charge Rule and Its Impact on Legal Immigrant Families' Public Benefits Use. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Insitute. Retrieved from https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/chilling-effects-expected-public-charge-rule-impact-legal-immigrant-families

Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute
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