Washington Watch: Final ‘public charge’ rule remains a concern for college advocates

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday published its final rule that expands the circumstances under which a non-citizen applying for permanent legal status and others may be deemed a “public charge,” and thus likely ineligible for permanent residency and eventually citizenship.

The rule goes into effect on October 15.

While the final rule made some minor changes to the proposed rule that was issued last October, it does not allay any of the concerns that immigrant rights organizations, higher education institutions and many others have with the rule. It will be challenged in court.

An analysis of the proposed rule by the American Association of Community Colleges still applies to the final rule. While there is some minor consolation in the fact that receiving educational and job training benefits would not put someone at risk of being deemed a “public charge,” many community college students and their family members are likely to be ensnared by the rule nonetheless.

Of perhaps even greater concern is that the rule has already deterred thousands of citizens and non-citizens from availing themselves of programs for which they are eligible, even though the rule does not directly affect them. Many fear this “chilling effect” will have substantial impacts on the health and well being of non-citizens and their family members. Though the rule does not include educational and job training programs, legal permanent residents and citizens may forgo using these programs out of fear of hurting a family member’s prospects for naturalization.

Protecting Immigrant Families, a coalition of numerous organizations including the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education, has compiled a list of resources to help people, including community college leaders, who wish to learn more about the rule and how to help those who are or think they might be affected by the rule.

About the Author

Jim Hermes
is associate vice president of government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.