The Trump Administration has finalized extensive and draconian changes to the public charge rule that would vastly expand reasons for the denial of admission or lawful permanent resident status to immigrants. These changes are part of a larger, cruel effort on the part of the Administration to codify racism into policy and use immigration law to tear apart families, including those of low-income older adults.

The changes would make it much harder for low-income older adults to enter the country or successfully apply for their green card by dramatically expanding the categories of public benefits that can be considered in determining whether an individual is likely to become a public charge. The final rule includes all Medicaid programs, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and cash assistance, housing assistance, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as public benefits to be considered, and retains age, limited English proficiency, and medical conditions, including an individual’s disabilities, as negative factors in the totality of the circumstances test for public charge. 

Despite receiving over 266,000 comments, the vast majority of which urged the Administration to retract the proposed rule, the Administration’s finalized policy is yet another blatant attack on older immigrants and their families. In addition to denying admission and cutting off a path to citizenship for those who may be considered a public charge, this rule will have the effect of deterring thousands more from seeking those benefits or applying for green cards. Families, including citizens, will be forced to choose between keeping their families together and staying in the U.S.

The final rule is scheduled to be published on Wednesday, August 14 and will go into effect on October 15, 2019.  In the near future, Justice in Aging will provide more detailed analysis of the contents of the final rule and its effects on low-income seniors

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