Neal and Pallone Urge Homeland Security Department to Withdraw Harmful New Public Charge Rule

Dec 10, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Ways & Means Committee Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA) and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen today to express their concerns with a rule that would significantly alter the public charge test, which has been part of federal immigration law for decades. The two Democratic Committee leaders also strongly urged Secretary Nielsen to withdraw this proposal immediately. Today is the deadline for comment on the proposed rule, which was published on October 10.   

Under longstanding policy, the federal government can deny an individual entry into the United States or adjust legal permanent resident status if he or she is determined likely to become a public charge. Current public charge policy limits the benefits considered to be cash assistance, such as Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and comparable state and local programs and government-funded institutional long-term care. Under the proposed rule, immigration officials would also consider non-cash benefits from programs that support work and improve health, including Medicaid and SNAP, in making a public charge determination.  

Neal and Pallone worry that the new rule would lead to decreased participation for individuals enrolled in vital public assistance programs, discriminate against individuals with disabilities, and fracture families – leaving seniors and their families afraid to go to the doctor or get help paying for food or rent. 

“If finalized, the rule would directly and indirectly exacerbate and undermine participation in public programs that support work, strengthen families, and provide basic necessities to children that are critical in their development to become strong, productive adults,” Neal and Pallone wrote to Secretary Nielsen. “It would do this through the threat—both real and perceived—that seeking benefits could affect immigration status or entry into the United States.  This would increase hunger and food insecurity and could force older adults and their families to forgo needed health care and services.”
The Democrats strongly oppose the inclusion of Medicaid in public charge determinations. Congress is responsible for making decisions about the eligibility of immigrants for benefits under federal health programs, and Neal and Pallone believe it is highly inappropriate for DHS to override Congress’ intent and effectively deny immigrants access to Medicaid benefits by including such benefits in a public charge determination. Neal and Pallone also adamantly oppose the inclusion of benefits provided under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in a public charge determination. 

The Democrats are also alarmed by the decision to categorize the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) Program, which is only available to individuals who worked and earned Medicare benefits, as a sign that an individual is a “public charge.”  

“We strongly urge the Department to withdraw this ill-conceived proposed rule immediately,” Neal and Pallone concluded in their letter.  

The letter is available HERE