Los Angeles, CA (November 1, 2018) – The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Commission unanimously approved a resolution last week strongly opposing the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposed change to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ “public charge” rule. LAHSA’s resolution and comment can be found here.
Under the current definition, qualified immigrants applying for admission to the U.S. or applying for adjustment of status (which includes applying for Legal Permanent Residency (LPR), also known as a “green card”) can have their application rejected if they are labeled a “public charge,” or determined to be reliant on public benefits, including cash assistance such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or institutionalization with long-term care (LTC).
DHS is seeking to change the definition to an immigrant who is likely, at any time in the future, to use a broader range of public benefits. DHS is expanding the benefits that can qualify someone as a public charge to include non-cash benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) and Project-Based Rental Assistance, non-emergency Medicaid, and Medicare Part D. In addition to taking into account past and current usage of public benefits, the proposed rule can designate an immigrant as a public charge even without using any public benefits if his or her income is lower than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines.
LAHSA’s comment to DHS states: “this proposal penalizes households that lawfully turn to social benefit programs designed to lift people out of poverty, leaving more families and children on the brink of homelessness.” The letter goes on to say, “LAHSA has deep concern over the unanticipated consequences and the potential ‘chilling effect’ this policy change will have on our immigrant communities, regardless of people’s immigration and citizenship status.”
LAHSA is also focusing efforts on educating who and what would not be affected, should the proposed change be adopted.
The proposed public charge test would not apply to immigrants renewing their LPR or applying for citizenship, or to certain exempt immigrant categories, such as refugees, asylum-seekers, immigrants applying for Temporary Protected Status, or VAWA self-petitioners. The proposed change, as well as the current rule, only applies to benefits received 100% through federal funds, except cash assistance and LTC. Programs funded solely through County Measure H funds would not be affected. In addition, the benefits considered would apply only to the applicant – not to others in the household. Lastly, any benefits not specifically listed in the proposed rule change will be excluded.
If you or someone you know is concerned about this potential rule change, LAHSA suggests contacting a legal professional. Pro bono legal service providers can be found here.
As the letter states, “Public benefit programs are vital to the work LAHSA does in reducing and ending homelessness among families in the region; by stripping families of their ability to turn to housing assistance without fear, this rule, if enacted, leaves families and children across the region increasingly vulnerable to homelessness.”
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is a joint powers authority of the city and county of Los Angeles, created in 1993 to address the problems of homelessness in Los Angeles County. LAHSA is the lead agency in the HUD-funded Los Angeles Continuum of Care, and coordinates and manages more than $300 million annually in federal, state, county, and city funds for programs providing shelter, housing, and services to people experiencing homelessness. For more information visit www.lahsa.org.