How the New Public Charge Rule Impacts Children in Immigrant Communities

Top Lines

  • The new public charge rule has created a chilling effect that could undo the decades of work made to ensure all kids have health coverage.

Editor’s Note, 1/27/2020: The new rules were temporarily blocked by the courts, but the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide injunction on January 27, 2020, allowing the new rules to go into effect in all states except Illinois. We will update any further developments.

Executive Summary

The final “public charge” rule changes immigration law and policy in ways that will shift the U.S. immigration system from favoring family unity to favoring wealth above all else. Fewer lawfully residing immigrant children will be able to obtain green cards, and fewer children in low- to moderate-income families will be granted admission. Moreover, fewer citizen children in mixed-status families will see their parents obtain green cards, jeopardizing their ability to stay together in the United States as a family.

Despite the fact that use of benefits by children or other family members will not count against the applicant, the complexity of the public charge rules and the anti- immigrant political climate has already deterred families from using needed benefits through what is known as the “chilling effect.” Even before the final rule was published, children in immigrant families and communities expressed fear and confusion about the rules and disenrolled as a precautionary measure. Without the support of SNAP and Medicaid, families are more likely to face food insecurity, skip needed medical treatment and preventive care, and experience financial and emotional hardship.

Research shows that children with health coverage are more likely to become healthy adults and have greater academic and economic success. Moreover, when even one member of the family is uninsured, it undermines the financial security of the whole family. The chilling effect of the final rule has the potential to undo decades of work to ensure all children have coverage, jeopardizing their futures.

Full Report

Read the full report here.

Kelly Whitener is an Associate Professor of the Practice at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families.