Public Charge

Rule Released

The Department of Homeland Security announced the finalized “public charge” regulation in August, and it is scheduled to go into effect on October 15. Several groups (including a coalition of states that Minnesota joined) have filed lawsuits to block implementation of the rule. We will provide further updates about the rule and its impact on the UMN when they are available.


The Trump administration has a proposed regulation change that immigrants rights organizers fear will scare immigrant families out of accessing education, nutrition, and housing programs for their children (including their U.S.-born children) and themselves.

The “public charge” analysis is a test in immigration law dating back to 1882 “used to identify people who may depend on government benefits as their main source of financial support.” The proposed change would broaden the scope to include a number of previously exempt programs such as non-emergency Medicaid, housing assistance, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and even assistance for seniors who need help paying for Medicare part D (prescription drugs).

Previously, this public charge test only applied to individuals who participated in government cash-assistance programs (such as Supplemental Security Income and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and government-funded, long-term institutional care. This proposed expansion would mean immigrant families could be forced to choose between maintaining eligibility for a green card and citizenship or accessing basic food, health, and housing programs. Agencies and organizations that provide resources and services for low-income families already report that, just due to the rumor of this proposal, parents have withdrawn their children from programs that support their education, nutrition, and well being.

Comments Needed

At first glance, this issue might seem unconnected to the primary work of the Immigration Response Team. However, as we think about all of the research and outreach that so many at the University of Minnesota do related to nutrition, public health, education, social work, policy, public engagement, and much more, it seems that this is an issue we all have a stake in. Across the country, organizations ranging from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the National Education Association and the National WIC Association have spoken out against this proposal.

We urge you to learn more about the proposal and, if you are concerned about its effects, submit a comment before the official comment period ends on December 10. You can learn much more about the details of the proposed regulation, the impact it will have, and how to make your voice heard on the Protecting Immigrant Families website.

At this point, the regulatory change is just a proposal, and the public comment period is a powerful vehicle for communicating concerns to the government. The Immigration Response Team has submitted public comments on a number of proposed regulatory changes in the past. We would be happy to consult with anyone who is considering submitting a comment.

"The idea of public charges and self-sufficiency is part of the American myth that any of us make it on our own. We white Minnesotans often ignore the many ways we’ve all accrued and benefited from public assistance. We routinely fail to acknowledge that most of us are public charges who have received tremendous public support in our pursuits of life, liberty and happiness."

- Star Tribune Editorial by Michael Westerhaus, UMN physician and assistant professor of global medicine

Video From Our Public Charge Forum (11/29/18)

Immigration & Human Rights Clinic and Univ. of Minn. Immigration Response Team: Public Change Forum

More Information