The National Immigration Law Center states, “public charge” is a term used by U.S. immigration officials to refer to a person who is considered primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense. If a person is found to likely become a public charge, they may be denied admission to the U.S. or lawful permanent resident status.

Recently, proposed changes to the “public charge” policy were leaked. These changes would widen the scope of federal services that can be considered when determining admission or permanent resident status to include health, such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program; nutrition, such as the Supplemental Food Nutrition Program; early and education, such as Head Start programs; in addition to homelessness assistance and transportation vouchers. Furthermore, the proposed policy would allow immigration officials to factor in the use of public programs by citizen children when making determinations.

According to analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation, changes to the “public charge” policy would likely decrease participation in federal programs among legal immigrant families and their citizen children.