How Uncertainty Surrounding the “Public Charge” Rule Leads to Hardship for Immigrant Families

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Recent Urban Institute survey data show that heightened immigration-related fears and concerns are shaping immigrant families’ daily lives. Many families are changing their daily routines and avoiding safety net programs. This “chilling effect” and fear is affecting families with a wide range of immigration and citizenship statuses, including green card holders and US citizens.

To complement our national survey findings, we conducted follow-up interviews with 25 adults in immigrant families in March 2019. We spoke with interviewees across the US who had reported avoiding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and/or housing assistance in 2018 because of immigration concerns.

Interviews included a diverse set of immigrant family experiences, including green card holders with US-born children, US-born partners of immigrant spouses, asylum seekers, student visa holders, and others.

We wanted to understand how chilling effects were playing out on the ground, what sources of information families were accessing about the proposed changes to the public charge rule, and how losing public supports had affected their well-being. The interviews highlight the unique challenges posed by fear and misinformation and the pressures experienced by immigrant families.


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