Recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a proposal that would have impacted many immigrants seeking admission to the U.S., wishing to extend a nonimmigrant stay or applying for green cards. Immigrants engaging in those immigration activities are required to prove that they won’t be an economic burden on American society — a “public charge,” as the law terms it. The DHS proposal sought to clarify which public benefits could count against immigrants trying to prove they won’t be a public charge.

The final version of the rule is not as strict as the proposal we discussed before on this blog. The proposal included certain health insurance subsidies and participation in CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) as evidence that the immigrant is a public charge. Those were removed from the final rule.

How many immigrants these benefits?

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine last month found that 19 percent of noncitizen adults use Medicaid, while 38 percent of their children use either Medicaid or CHIP. While CHIP will no longer count against immigrants, Medicaid will, except in certain limited circumstances.

“We want kids to get vaccinations. We want people to have access to health care. When people don’t have that access, it impacts us all. It creates potential public health risks,” Minnesota’s human services commissioner told Governing magazine.

Unfortunately, it seems that the rule may have a chilling effect on immigrants seeking out health services. According to a 2017 report by the Center for Law and Social Policy, there has been an increased in missed appointments among immigrants since President Trump took office.

Although the final rule does not include CHIP and healthcare subsidies, the center worries that legal immigrants who are entitled to use these programs will nevertheless avoid them out of fear or confusion.

That could have a negative impact on our entire health system, which struggles to reach younger, healthier people to pay into the system. If legal immigrants choose to go uninsured rather than risk being labeled a public charge, that could further exacerbate the situation. It could also drive up the immigrants’ health costs because they could delay important care.

A number of immigrants’ rights groups, health access advocacy groups and governance groups have come out in opposition to the new rule. For example, the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors voted unanimously in June to oppose it.

If you are hoping to come to the U.S., extend your stay or apply for lawful permanent residency but are concerned about the new public charge rule, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping people get the answers they need to their immigration questions.