PCOA is very concerned with the Department of Homeland Security's proposed change in what is called the public charge rule. Our friends at Justice in Aging report that the Administration has proposed a rule that would hurt millions of older adults in immigrant families. If enacted, older adults and their families would be forced to make impossible choices between obtaining a permanent legal status of the U.S. and meeting their basic needs, caring for their children and aging parents, and keeping their families together.


Proposed changes to the "public charge" rule put immigration status at risk if an immigrant accesses or seeks access to programs that support health, nutrition, and economic stability.


The "public charge" test has been part of the federal immigration law for decades. It is designed to identify people who may depend on government benefits as their main source of support. If the government determines someone is likely to become a "public charge," the government can deny admission to the U.S. or refuse an application for lawful permanent residency.


Under the current policy, the only benefits considered in determining who is likely to become a "public charge" are cash assistance, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and comparable state and local programs, and government-funded institutional long-term care (including through Medicaid).


Under the proposed rule, a "public charge" is an immigrant who receives one or more public benefits. The proposal changes how immigration officials would weigh a person's age, health, financial resources, and skills in deciding whether a person is likely to use certain public benefits in the future. It specifies that certain factual circumstances would weigh in favor of being determined likely to become a "public charge," including those who:

  • Are younger than 18 or older and 61
  • Have physical or mental conditions that interfere with their ability to care for themselves
  • Earn less than 125% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
  • Are limited English proficient

In its totality, we are concerned that this rule will be used to unduly discriminate against older adults and their families and could prevent qualified professional and family caregivers from becoming a part of our vital community network.


The proposed changes are currently posted for public comment, through December 10. We encourage you to write a comment opposing this change in the public charge rule.


For more information on public charge, click here.