Children’s HealthWatch Comments on the Department of Homeland Security’s Advanced Notice of Public Rule Making

On October 22, 2021, Children’s HealthWatch submitted comments on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Advanced Notice of Public Rule Making, “Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility” published in the Federal Register on August 23, 2021. On behalf of Children’s HealthWatch, a network of pediatricians, public health researchers, and policy and child health experts, please accept these comments and our evidence-based suggestions for DHS. We offer these comments for Department’s development of a public charge definition and future regulatory proposal that can reduce barriers to key services and programs for immigrant families as well as reduce administrative burden, thus enhancing the health and developmental potential of children.

In line with the recommendations outlined by the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign and the Children Thrive Action Network, Children’s HealthWatch recommends that the new rule should be based on the 1999 Field Guidance now in effect, but updated in three key ways to:

  1. Clarify key definitions and time periods in the totality of circumstances test and ensure that any benefit used by a child should not be considered when making a public charge determination of family members. These should include but not be limited to: TANF, SSI, SNAP, WIC, child nutrition programs (school meals, CACFP, summer meals), housing subsidies, LIHEAP, CTC, and EITC.
  2. Articulate a finite list of benefits included as factors in a public charge determination and include an exhaustive list of cash and non-cash benefits that should be excluded from public charge determination, including but not limited to: all types of Medicaid and CHIP benefits; housing; nutrition; utilities; child care; refundable tax credits; and emergency and disaster relief benefits; and
  3. Provide a comprehensive, updated list of the immigration groups exempt from public charge inadmissibility.