Attorney General Becerra: Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule Is an Attack on Families and Communities

Monday, August 12, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

 The rule will have devastating impacts on California’s economy and will negatively impact nearly every community, regardless of immigration status 

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today vowed to fight the Trump Administration’s inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule, known as the “DHS Public Charge Rule”. The DHS Public Charge rule rewrites policies that limit who can obtain or keep legal immigration status based on the use of publicly-funded programs. The Rule will block the path to citizenship for lower income immigrants and prevent lower income Americans from sponsoring family members to join them in the United States. It discourages eligible immigrants and their families from accessing critical health, nutrition, and housing programs and jeopardizes the well-being of hardworking families, including women, children, and seniors. California is home to over 10 million immigrants. Half of all children in California have a parent who is an immigrant. 

“This vile rule is the Trump Administration’s latest attack on families and lower income communities of color,” said Attorney General Becerra. “It will harm our communities, schools, and workplaces by weaponizing essential healthcare, housing, and nutrition programs. We will not stand idly by while this Administration targets programs that children and families across our state rely upon. We are ready to take legal action to protect the rights of all Californians.”  

Current guidance by the federal government defines a public charge as a person who is primarily dependent on either public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutional long-term care at the government’s expense. The new regulation expands this definition by declaring that the use of additional government programs constitutes grounds for a public charge determination. The rule will discourage both immigrants and Americans seeking to sponsor non-citizen family members from accessing critical and lifesaving programs and services including: healthcare through Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program), nutrition and food support for children and families through CalFresh (California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and housing for families through Section 8 housing assistance. These programs are designed to help families make ends meet and ensure strong, healthy communites in California. 

The rule will negatively impact: 

California’s Economy:

  • Agriculture: Ninety-five percent of California’s farmworkers are immigrants. Labor shortages in this sector are already so severe that farmers have been forced to leave 20 percent or more of their crops in the field to rot due to lack of workers.
  • Construction: California has the highest percentage of immigrant construction workers in the nation at 42 percent. Among other things, a labor shortage jeopardizes California’s ability to prepare for natural disasters, such as recent wildfires, as well as the ability to rebuild after them, a process to which immigrant workers are critical.
  • Child Care and Early Education: Thirty-nine percent of child care and early education providers in California—81,000 people—are immigrants. Children rely on these providers for care and education, and parents require these services to maintain their own employment. Losing child care workers will be disruptive for the children and families they help and for the economy.
  • Healthcare: Immigrants represent 33 percent of California’s healthcare work force—twice the national level. Immigrants are heavily represented in positions that provide direct care to patients, including caregivers and home health aides who assist elders and people with disabilities. If home care positions go unfilled, patients who would otherwise be able to stay in their homes may be forced to move to nursing facilities, incurring higher costs both for patients and the state and, in many cases, significantly decreasing patients’ quality of life.

California’s Public Health, Social Services, Housing and Educational Programs:

  • Colleges and Universities: Numerous private colleges and universities in California sponsor undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-doctoral scholars from a diverse array of countries. The Rule will hurt low income graduating students, as their incomes would become a factor when they apply to change or extend their visas.
  • Nutrition Programs in Schools: California currently certifies over 730,000 children for free meals and over 310,000 children for reduced price meals due to their households’ participation in Medicaid. Additionally, almost 1.6 million children are certified for free meals due to their households’ participation in SNAP. This rule’s detrimental impact on children’s nutrition in low-income school districts will extend well beyond the children of immigrants due to a provision that allows all students in eligible communities to obtain free school meals without showing individual eligibility.
  • Vaccines for Kids: In 2017, the State Department of Public Health reportedly distributed over 11 million doses of vaccines for children to help immunize at least 2 million children, including more than 600,000 uninsured infants. The rule would prevent California from reaching the populations most in need—regardless of immigration status. This will ultimately hurt every California classroom.
  • Basic Healthcare: More than 2 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries have noncitizen status. These individuals will face the onerous task of determining whether this rule applies to them, and then deciding whether needed healthcare is worth risking their ability to adjust their immigration status. 
  • Housing: Housing assistance brings stability to many low income and immigrant families and individuals who are working low-wage jobs that help support the economy. The Rule will discourage applicants from applying for housing assistance, creating more instability and ultimately leading families into poverty.

On October 10, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a proposed rule that would significantly change the grounds for excluding immigrants under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). On December 10, 2018, Attorney General Becerra submitted a comment letter, urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to withdraw the proposed rule. The letter outlined the impact that the new rule would have on Californians as it unjustly instills fear in vulnerable immigrant communities. Attorney General Becerra argued that the proposed rule would harm the health, safety, and economic prosperity of the State.

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