National WIC Association

Immigration Resources

NWA UPDATE ON PUBLIC CHARGE

November 26, 2018

 

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has requested the public’s comments on its proposed rule expanding the public charge test. The proposed rule would penalize immigrants if they access Medicaid, SNAP, or housing-assistance programs. The heightened risk to an individual’s immigration status would continue to disincentivize eligible families from accessing any public benefit program, including WIC.

The comment period is open until December 10, 2018, and your comments can be directly submitted to DHS here. Already over 84,000 individuals have commented on this proposed change since the public comment period opened on October 10!

Although WIC is not explicitly mentioned in the proposed rule, DHS has asked for the public’s input on whether any additional use of benefits by immigrants should be considered in public charge review. There remains a risk that WIC participation could be included in the final rule, and so we urge the WIC community to speak out now! You are the best voice to elevate WIC’s public health success, demonstrating the immense value that WIC contributes to mothers, children, families, and communities. DHS must learn through your public comments why WIC participation should not be considered in immigration determinations or the public charge test. Remember: Regulatory commenting is not lobbying. The federal government is actively soliciting your input to inform its decision-making.

To assist you in forming a comment, NWA has created template comments. In addition, NWA has drafted guidelines for concerned participants (available in other languages - see below) who may wish to comment in an individual capacity. Please note that DHS will accept comments only in English or with an accompanying English translation. These templates, along with other public charge resources such as talking points and the FAQ document, are also posted to the left. Please direct any questions about the comment process to Brian Dittmeier at bdittmeier@nwica.org.

Translations of NWA Template Comments Addressing Public Charge:

See the September 24 blog post for additional analysis of the proposal.

PUBLIC CHARGE RESOURCES

The Administration has proposed changes to regulations to expand the public charge test. Public charge evaluates whether an immigrant will depend on the government for support, and the test is applied when an immigrant applies for an adjustment of legal status (i.e., visa, green card, or legal permanent residency). For decades, this test considered only whether an immigrant would require cash benefits (TANF or SSI) or long-term institutionalization under Medicaid. The Administration’s proposed changes would expand the test to include other benefit programs, potentially including WIC. Should this change go into effect, families would have to choose between their legal status or their family’s access to food.

Escalation of ICE Presence

There has been an escalation of enforcement activity by the Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) division of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). NWA has received multiple reports of ICE presence outside WIC clinics, exacerbating an already significant chilling effect on families and discouraging participants from entering clinics.

Immigration Attorney Resources

Participants may have questions about immigration policy that go beyond the scope of WIC. Clinic staff may wish to encourage participants to reach out to an immigration lawyer. You can find a lawyer in your area at:

Research and Studies

Congress and the Administration have been contemplating changes to immigration policy, some of which could directly impact WIC participants. As clinics face a number of new questions from participants, NWA has assembled the resources below to assist WIC staff. Please feel free to reach out to NWA with any questions or concerns.

Please keep NWA informed!

NWA can be more effective in supporting clinics if we understand the concerns that participants are voicing each day. Whenever your clinic faces a concern around immigration policy, please fill out this survey to document the incident and inform NWA’s broader advocacy efforts.