Five Things Teens Should Know About the "Public Charge" Rule

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Health Rights + Immigrant Teens

You may have heard in the news that the federal government is seeking to change some of the rules of our immigration system that could affect many low-income immigrant families’ health care and other public services.

While that may sound a little scary, the immigration rule is NOT in effect until October 15th unless it is blocked by a court. Advocates have already filed several lawsuits to stop the immigration rule changes.

In the meantime, here are 5 things you should know about the potential changes to the immigration rule, also called “public charge.”

1. What is “Public Charge”

The government uses a test called “public charge” to determine whether immigrants with visas can become a legal permanent resident of the United States. Officials consider many factors, including education, employment, and family situation to help them decide whether an immigrant will likely need to use government benefit programs – a status which is known as “public charge.”  This public charge test has existed for years, but the government recently proposed changing the rules so that more social benefit programs can be counted against immigrants applying to become legal permanent residents (also known as “green card” status).

2. Who is affected? Who is NOT affected?

The public charge test ONLY applies to the following people:

  • Immigrants over the age of 21 who are applying for Legal Permanent Resident status (green card) or renewing certain visas

The public charge test DOES NOT apply to you if:

  • You are under the age of 21
  • If you are a U.S. Citizen
  • If you are applying for a DACA renewal “aka Dreamers”
  • If you have TPS, U or T Visa, Asylum or Refugee status, or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

The good news is, even if you are under the age of 21 and use Medi-Cal, your health care won’t be counted against you. This means that you can still access health care, including sexual and reproductive health services, for free! If you still have questions, you should talk to an immigration attorney.

3. Your Services Won’t Impact Your Family’s Immigration Status

The public charge test also doesn’t count against the benefits used by family members, so you can stay on Medi-Cal without worrying about how that would affect the status of your parents and siblings. And likewise, your family’s use of programs like SNAP (also known as EBT or food stamps) and Section 8 Housing won’t be considered in determining your immigration status.

4. Stay healthy, informed and safe as an immigrant teen

The new rule doesn’t go into effect until October 15, 2019 and advocates are working hard to stop the rules in court. Any benefits received between now and then will not be counted. If you and your family still need to make important decisions about staying on certain programs, you have time. Below are resources to help you stay safe and healthy.

  • Consult a legal professional before making any major decisions.
  • Protecting Immigrant Families is a national coalition of organizations that provides resources to immigrants and advocates in need. You can learn more here.
  • United We Dream, another organization committed to empowering immigrants, has provided several toolkits with trainings, reports, and more. You can access this here.
  • Here is a link to public benefits charts so you can stay aware of the resources for which you and your family are eligible.
  • The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has published a list of hotlines to call for any immigration-related services you may need. Click here.
  • Take charge of your health TODAY by finding a clinic on our clinic list!

5. Stay Engaged and Advocate!

Here are several ways you can engage with the immigrant rights movement:

  • Donate to organizations that are helping to stand up for immigrants! The ACLU has created a list of groups looking for donations such as Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and Annunciation House.
  • TeenSource has created a graphic in order to share information about the new public charge rule, which you can find on our Instagram. Spread awareness by sharing it on your own Instagram, and make sure to tag us! 

There’s a lot of confusion about the immigration rule changes, so it’s important to make sure that the people you love continue to stay informed on important social programs. Make sure to share this blog with your friends and family!