CRLAF Welcomes Final Public Charge Rule + Calls on Congress to Make Health Care a Right for All


Last week, on September 9, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its updated final public charge rule, resolving a years-long dispute and pacifying the concerns of immigrant families and advocates nationally. While CRLA Foundation welcomes the current administration’s resolve to remedy the fear and confusion caused by the previous Trump administration, we remain firmly committed as an immigrants’ rights organization to advancing immigrants’ rights to access health care and public benefits.


This most recent public charge rule maintains much of the previous guidance published in 1999. DHS has retained the established definition of “public charge” as an immigrant applicant who “is likely at any time to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” Moreover, under this current rule that will go into effect December 23, 2022:

  • Only two types of public benefits will be considered: (1) “public cash assistance for income maintenance” and (2) “long-term institutionalization at government expense.”

  • Examples of such cash assistance programs are TANF[1] (CalWORKS), General Assistance, and Social Security Income (SSI).

  • Examples of long-term institutionalization include services received in nursing homes or mental health facilities covered under Medicaid (Medi-Cal).

  • Notably, most undocumented immigrants are not eligible for these programs.

  • Other federal or state benefits received by an applicant immigrant will not be considered.

  • Benefits that are safe to use and not included in the public charge rule include SNAP[2] (CalFRESH), Medicaid (Medi-Cal), WIC,[3] and housing benefits.

  • Services related to COVID-19 testing and vaccines, and any emergency or pandemic relief programs (including those in the form of cash assistance) will not be considered under the current and new public charge rule.

  • Benefits used by family members not applying for immigration status, such as U.S. citizen children, will not be considered.

Unfortunately, the damage from the prior administration’s changes to the public charge rule has had a lasting effect on disenrollment from and avoidance of public benefits programs, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, immigrant communities across the United States still have “lower rates of health insurance, use less health care and receive lower quality of care” than U.S. citizens. CRLA Foundation will continue to advocate for improved access to health care and social services that support the well-being and security of immigrant families in California and across our nation.

CRLAF encourages action on the part of President Biden and Congress to:

  • Eliminate the 5-year bar, which excludes otherwise eligible immigrants from participating in vital public benefits programs (i.e., Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, TANF) for 5 years after having already gained “qualified” immigration status; and

  • Allow undocumented immigrants, including DACA recipients, to purchase health insurance plans from the online marketplace made available by the Affordable Care Act.

CRLA Foundation supports both the Health Equity and Access Under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Families Act and the Lifting Immigrant Families Through Benefits Access Restoration (LIFT the BAR) Act, proposed policies that would reduce barriers to accessing health care and public benefits for immigrant communities. Additionally, CRLA Foundation supports policy initiatives such as Medicare for All, which would eliminate immigration status as a requirement for participation in national health programs. Our team believes that health and access to health care is a right, not a privilege restricted by immigration status or wealth. We will not stop fighting until this becomes a reality. ¡La lucha sigue!

If you have questions about public charge and would like a free legal consultation, please call CRLA Foundation’s public charge line, (916) 446-7902, to speak with an attorney.

If you would like to organize a presentation for your community or organization about public charge policies or immigrant eligibility for public benefits, email Clarisa Reyes-Becerra, CRLA Foundation’s Immigrant Health Equity Project Director, at creyesbecerra@crlaf.org.




[1] Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

[2] Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP).

[3] Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).


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