News

New Trump Administration Rule Threatens Immigrants and People Living with HIV

 

Ruling expands the range of public benefits that affect legal immigration status

 

APLA Health today strongly condemned a new Trump administration rule, released this week, that expands the list of public benefits that may be used to deny an individual entry into the U. S. or change their current legal immigration status. The “public charge” rule aligns with the Administration’s anti-immigrant policies and will create barriers to public programs that provide food, housing and healthcare to immigrants in need.

The new policy would also allow U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to deny an individual admission to the country on “health-related” grounds, including a variety of illnesses that often impact people living with HIV.

The rule goes into effect in mid-October. It will not be retroactive and will not affect people who have accessed programs in the past. Over thirteen states including California have filed lawsuits to block the new rule. More are likely to follow.

Previously, an individual could be deemed a public charge if USCIS determined that they were likely to primarily depend on public cash assistance or institutionalization for long-term care at the government’s expense.

The new rule expands the use of programs that constitute public charge to include:

  • Medicaid (except for those who are under 21 or pregnant women)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance
  • Subsidized public housing
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Under the rule, use of these programs for 12 months in a 36 month period will be considered a negative factor in deciding who is a public charge. Using two programs like Medicaid and SNAP in a single month will be counted as two months.

Public charge does not apply to residents with green cards or green card holders applying for U.S. citizenship, and will not impact an array of benefits for students and children and Medicaid coverage for pregnant women. The use of state, local and tribal funded non-cash programs, Ryan White programs (including the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, or ADAP) and HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS) are also not included in the rule.

California’s new expansion of the state’s Medi-Cal (Medicaid) program to undocumented individuals between the ages of 18-26 is funded solely with state general funds, and consequently may not be included as part of public charge. However, many immigrants looking to change or adjust their legal status could likely be too frightened by the new rule to apply for coverage they are entitled to and otherwise need. In any event all immigrants should consult with an immigration attorney before applying for a change in status.

“Denying immigrants access to food, shelter and healthcare will only have a negative impact on our country as a whole,” said APLA Health CEO Craig E. Thompson. “This rule could easily be used to deny all people living with HIV legal status or entry into the country, and it will certainly keep some people from seeking out the healthcare they need.”

“The Trump Administration has launched a plan to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. This rule is a setback for that effort, and for all of us who are living with or at risk of HIV,” Thompson said.

The public charge rule will have implications for people entering the country, those seeking to rejoin family members living in the U.S., those who come to the U.S. for temporary work, and their families. Refugees, asylum seekers, people fleeing domestic violence, and some other protected groups are not subject to public charge determinations and are not affected by this rule.