In response to the Biden Administration’s release of a final rule on public chargeFirst Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley made the following statement:

“We applaud the Biden Administration for finalizing a public charge rule that allows immigrant families and their children to access health care, nutrition services, and housing benefits for which they are eligible without fear. First Focus on Children had recommended that the Department of Homeland Security exclude from consideration state, local, and tribal benefits, and that it create a presumption that children, specifically, are not a public charge. We are disappointed that DHS did not adopt these recommendations, but we are pleased to see it adopted our counsel to explicitly exclude from consideration benefits received under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other nutrition programs, housing benefits, benefits related to testing or immunization for communicable diseases like COVID-19, Medicaid (except for long-term use of institutional services), and other supplemental or special purpose benefits. DHS also has done well to modernize the rule by excluding benefits received by an applicant’s family members, which assures that U.S. citizen and lawfully present children can access benefits for which they are eligible. We are also glad to see DHS commit to providing guidance to officers in applying this rule to children.

This final rule will make it harder for a future administration to recreate the confusion and harm of the previous public charge policy and will help ensure that families feel safe accessing benefits that support their children’s healthy development. We look forward to working with the Administration on guidance related to the rule, especially regarding the fair application of the rule to children.

The good changes in this rule matter most if families know about them. Too many families are unaware that the previous Administration’s dangerous, damaging public charge rule is gone. We look forward to seeing the Biden Administration implement our recommendations on community outreach and education to clarify the new public charge policy, reverse the chilling effect of the Trump public charge rule, and regain trust with immigrant families.

While we believe that a clear and fair rule mitigates the harms of the public charge policy, the fact remains that public charge is one in a web of harmful policies that keep children in immigrant families from accessing the support they need. We believe that all children should have access to health care, nutritious food, safe housing, and income supports that ensure their health and stability now and in the future. We urge the Biden Administration and Congress to work together and pass legislation including the LIFT the BAR Act (H.R. 5227/S. 4311), which would lift the five-year waiting period for lawfully present immigrants to access federal health, housing, nutrition, and income support programs, and remove all other barriers to federal benefits that help children grow and thrive.”

For more resources on public charge’s impact on children, click here.

For our fact sheet on the LIFT the BAR Act, click here