Proposed Changes to Public Charge and What it Means for Your Community

by Tomiko Townley, Alliance Advocacy Director

For over a hundred years, the government has recognized that work supports like health care and nutrition help families thrive and remain productive. Decades ago, the government clarified that immigrant families can seek health and nutrition benefits without fear of harming their immigration status and path toward citizenship. If the most recent Proposed Public Charge Rule Change is implemented, immigrant families will be negatively impacted by simply trying to help their household members meet their basic needs. Families seeking a path toward citizenship will have to meet a set of unrealistic and punitive standards to become Lawful Permanent Residents.

How does this affect your community?

The narrative about the immigrant community is flawed. Our state and our nation rely on documented and undocumented immigrants. These are our neighbors, friends, and family members who work hard and contribute to the Arkansas economy. If your neighbors and friends (nearly 5% of Arkansas residents are immigrants) fear accessing vital services like healthcare, food assistance, and housing assistance, their health will deteriorate. No one benefits from an unhealthy community. If this new rule is implemented, any person seeking lawful permanent residence who is benefiting from these and other programs will be categorized as a “public charge” and their pursuit of citizenship will be negatively affected.

We know many documented and undocumented immigrant families are deciding not to go to health clinics, food pantries, and other supportive agencies for fear of being reported and vilified. Here are some articles about the impact:

Immigrants are Going Hungry so Trump Won’t Deport Them

Why Crackdown Fears May Keep Legal Immigrants from Food Stamps

Deportation Fears Prompt Immigrants to Cancel SNAP

You will notice these stories are from the beginning of 2018. There was a leaked memo released in 2017 following multiple anti-immigration speeches that made immigrant families fear getting support from services they are eligible to receive.

So what can you do to help protect immigrant families in your community?

  • Submit a comment about the public rule, Protecting Immigrant Families makes it easy to submit one here.
  • Review your reporting requirements and remove any questions about citizenship status, like this Sample Benefits Privacy Chart NC.
  • Work with your Board of Directors and immigrant families in your community to identify opportunities to implement policies that make accessing services easier for immigrant families.
  • Sign up for alerts from Protecting Immigrant Families and National Immigration Law Center.


Tomiko Townley
Director of Advocacy