The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

Public Charge Rule Updates

This is an update on public charge from Protecting Immigrant Families -Massachusetts.  
  • Preliminary Injunction hearings in several of the federal court lawsuits are scheduled for Oct 2 and 3.
  • Links to new MA-specific materials on Public Charge & SNAP and on Public Charge & Health Programs plus updated materials from national groups.
  • Free attorney training Oct 2 in Boston --intended for immigration attorneys
Date: Tue, Sep 17, 2019 at 2:33 PM
Subject: Public Charge Rule Updates




September 17, 2019

Dear Allies – 

On August 12, 2019 the Trump administration filed the final public charge rule which is scheduled to take effect October 15, 2019. Despite receiving over 266,000 comments -- the vast majority opposing changes to the current public charge definition-- the final rule makes changes that will make it harder for many immigrants to obtain a green card even if they have never used public benefits. This is one more example of the Trump administration’s message to immigrant families that only the well-off are welcome here. 


The fight is not over. There are currently 7 lawsuits filed challenging the rule around the country, and a few more may be filed. Litigators in all three cases filed in the Northern District of California have filed preliminary injunctions, which will be heard on October 2, to block DHS’s public charge rule from taking effect before the rule’s October 15 effective date. The preliminary injunction filed for the case in the Eastern District of Washington, in which Massachusetts is one of the State plaintiffs, will be heard on October 3.


The final rules expand the definition of public benefits that are considered when immigration officials decide if some non-citizens should be denied a green card because they are likely to become a public charge. The final rule adds SNAP, federal Section 8 and federal public housing, and certain Medicaid benefits to the public benefits considered for purposes of public charge. Receipt of these benefits will also be a negative factor for certain “non-immigrants” seeking to extend or change to another non-immigrant (temporary) status.


Phase II of the Campaign:


As you may recall, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), Health Care For All and Health Law Advocates have been working together as part of the national Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) campaign to fight back against the negative changes in public charge regulation here in Massachusetts. Now that a final rule is out, the second phase of the campaign will focus on ensuring that affected community members, advocacy organizations and allies have access to the information they need in order to make informed decisions and/or provide accurate advice. It is important that we do all we can to make sure that immigrant families who are not at risk from the change in rules, do not needlessly drop important cash, health, nutrition and housing benefits that their families need


Essential information that you should know when talking to immigrant families who want to know if it is safe to apply for or keep SNAP, housing or Medicaid (MassHealth) benefits:


·       The new rules do not take effect until October 15, 2019.

o   The new rules do not apply to applications for admission or adjustment of status to a legal permanent resident that were submitted before Oct. 15, 2019. 

o   SNAP, federal housing or Medicaid benefits received before October 15, 2019 will not be considered a negative factor. This means there is no advantage to families dropping these benefits now. There is still time for families to find out if public charge will even apply to them. 

o   Only receipt of federal, state or local cash welfare benefits like SSI, TAFDC, or EAEDC and programs supporting non-citizens in long term care institutions will be considered negatively prior to October 15, 2019

·       Receipt of any other public benefits --besides cash welfare, SNAP, federal housing, and certain Medicaid benefits --are not included in the public charge definition of public benefits. This means there will never be an advantage to dropping benefits like WIC, school meals, state subsidized and state public housing, ConnectorCare, and MassHealth Limited. 

·       The final rule will not consider public benefits that the non-citizen receive on behalf of another, such as benefits an immigrant parent obtains for his or her citizen child. And benefits received by a family member will not count unless the immigrant is also a beneficiary. 

·       The final rule adds some important exceptions to receipt of Medicaid.  It will not consider receipt of emergency Medicaid (MassHealth Limited), or receipt of any form of Medicaid by children and youth under age 21 or pregnant women during pregnancy and 60 days post-partum. It also will not consider state-funded health benefits even if the state calls these benefits by the same name as Medicaid. This is important in Massachusetts where we call many health programs MassHealth. 

·       Most immigrants who qualify for cash welfare, SNAP, federal housing and certain Medicaid benefits will not be subject to the public charge test because –

o   They are already legal permanent residents (LPRs). (However, LPRs who plan to be out of the country for 180 days or more, should get advice from an immigration lawyer before departure).

§  The public charge test does not apply to LPRs who are seeking to naturalize to become US citizens.

§  The public charge test does not apply to LPRs who want to sponsor other family members.

o   They qualify for benefits because they have an immigration classification that is exempt from public charge. This includes people who are refugees, asylees, trafficking victims, U-visa holders, battered immigrants/VAWA petitioners, and others. 

·       Most non-citizen adults who are not yet legal permanent residents or have a status that is not exempt from the public charge test do not qualify for “public benefits” as defined under the rule.

·       The new rule will also consider receipt of public benefits in deciding whether to permit certain “non-immigrants” like foreign students, exchange scholars or specialty workers to extend or change their status. However, most of these “non-immigrant” adults do not qualify for “public benefits” as defined under the rule.




·       Public Charge Clinic for Community Members to be announced - October.

·       Keep an eye out for a Massachusetts specific teleconference/webinar in the near future.

·       Free training on October 2 at the Boston Bar Association from 12:00-2:00pm for attorneys in MA. Sign up here, Contact Kristen Tully at if you have questions.

·       Who is affected? Public Charge: Getting the Help You Need 

·       For an analysis of how the rule will affect Health and Health coverage, visit

·       SNAP and Public Charge: What to know. Resource produced by MLRI, the 4 MA Food Banks and Project Bread. Click here for flier in English and here for Spanish

·       CLINIC FAQ

·       Health Care For All: Access to Health Care and Changes to the Public Charge Rule


Thank you for standing with us! Email us at if you have question, are hearing stories about immigrant families disenrolling from public benefits, or if you want us to host a presentation for your organization/community. 

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