History of the Public Charge Rule
Emma Lazarus’ poem at the foot of the Statue of Liberty invites the world to “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” For centuries, people have come with little or nothing, and built new lives and new fortunes here. It’s the American Dream.
But a policy that went into effect on February 24, 2020, aimed to screen out working-class immigrants by subjecting anyone who earns less than 250% of the federal poverty line ($65,500 for a family of 4 in 2020) to close scrutiny, and effectively excluding anyone below 125% of the FPL ($32,750 for a family of 4).
Immigrants applying for a green card or visa could have been deemed a “public charge” – someone who depends on the government – and been turned away if they earned below 250% of the FPL and used any of a wide range of public programs for working families, or are deemed to be likely to use them in the future due to their income, age, health status, credit score and other factors.
More than a quarter of non-citizens in Massachusetts have incomes below 125% of the FPL, and an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute found 69% of recent green card recipients met at least one of the negatively weighted criteria.
On March 10, 2021, the Biden administration has announced that the 1999 guidance on public charge (the policy that was in place before the 2019 public charge rule) is now in effect. You can read more about what this means here.