The Impact of Changes to the Public Charge Rule on Undocumented Immigrants Living in the U.S.

Publication date: 
August 2019
U.S. Immigration Policy Center logo, which features their name spelled out to the right of a globe with a pen outlining the United States. Accompanies their report, The Impact of Changes to the Public Charge Rule on Undocumented Immigrants Living in the U.S.

On August 12, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) filed its “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” final rule and officially published it on August 14, 2019.1 This codifies changes to the public charge rule, which affects who is allowed to enter the U.S., as well as who is allowed to adjust their immigration status. It has been rightly noted that changes to the public charge rule have the potential to dramatically affect legal admissions into the U.S. Significantly less attention, however, has been paid to how changes to the public charge rule will affect undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., particularly undocumented immigrants attempting to adjust their immigration status (for example, should Congress pass legislation that provides legal status). This policy and data brief presents new survey experimental data on how changes to the public charge rule will impact undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.

The data show:

  • Undocumented immigrants are 15.1 percent less likely to get emergency healthcare services for themselves when needed when they are told about proposed changes to the public charge rule (p < .001);
  • Undocumented immigrants are 18.3 percent less likely to get preventive healthcare services for themselves when they are told about proposed changes to the public charge rule (p < .001);
  • Undocumented immigrants are 9.1 percent less likely to get free immunization services, such as flu shots, at County Public Health Centers when they are told about proposed changes to the public charge rule (p = .040);
  • Undocumented immigrants with children are 6.6 percent less likely to get emergency healthcare services for their children when needed when they are told about proposed changes to the public charge rule (p = .058);
  • Undocumented immigrants with children are 8.6 percent less likely to get preventive healthcare services for their children when they are told about proposed changes to the public charge rule (p = .043);
  • Undocumented immigrants with children are 12.4 percent less likely to get free immunization services, such as flu shots, at County Public Health Centers for their children when they are told about proposed changes to the public charge rule (p = .003);
  • Undocumented immigrants with children are 9.1 percent less likely to get free or reduced-price school meals for their children when they are told about proposed changes to the public charge rule (p = .049);
  • Undocumented immigrants with U.S. citizen children are 7.7 percent less likely to get emergency healthcare services for their children when needed when they are told about proposed changes to the public charge rule (p = .032);
  • Undocumented immigrants with U.S. citizen children are 9.6 percent less likely to get preventive healthcare services for their children when they are told about proposed changes to the public charge rule (p = .032);
  • Undocumented immigrants with U.S. citizen children are 12.8 percent less likely to get free immunization services, such as flu shots, at County Public Health Centers for their children when they are told about proposed changes to the public charge rule (p = .004);
  • Undocumented immigrants with U.S. citizen children in public K-12 education are 9.5 percent less likely to get free or reduced-price school meals for their children when they are told about proposed changes to the public charge rule (p = .041); and
  • It is important to note that these results likely underestimate the impact of changes to the public charge rule. The survey experiment was fielded before the proposed public charge rule became final. The survey experiment thus uses the language, “There is currently a proposal,” when describing the proposed public charge rule. If the final rule becomes official policy, we expect that the effects will be much more acute.

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