The Shafter Press - Serving the community since 1922

By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

Public Charge policy meeting set for March 14


With the proposed changes being discussed regarding the public charge policy at the federal level, an informational meeting is being held at the Shafter Youth Center on March 14, beginning at 5 p.m.

The meeting is being sponsored by United Farm Workers, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance and Community Action Partnership of Kern.

According to Angie Nelson, director of the Shafter Youth Center and Coordinator for the CAPK, Shafter, the meeting is for anyone who has questions about their status and what they might need to know regarding the new proposed changes.

A “public charge” is a person that depends on the government for their living. Currently, this means those who receive cash aid, SSI or other cash assistance from the government. Those who are considered a “public charge” can be denied entry into the United States and can be denied permanent resident status in the United States.

In October 2018, changes in the policy were proposed that would enhance the list of programs that would be considered when someone was being deemed a public charge. Currently, the list does not include programs such as Cal Fresh (food stamps), medical, Medicaid and other health and nutrition programs available to low-income individuals and families. With the new proposal, these programs would have a negative impact on a person’s test of public charge.

“The meeting will give people explanations of the policy and the proposed changes,” Nelson said. “There will also be counselors from the GBLA there to assist.”

“Each person’s situation is different, and the counselors will be there to help those people who have questions, trying to help them avoid harming their chances of getting permanent resident status or being granted admittance into the U.S.”

Carmen Burgos of the Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance said: “The changes were proposed in October 2018 and the public comments were received until December 2018. With the comment period over, they are now discussing the proposed changes and will make a decision in the near future. We are trying to assist people who may be worried on how the changes would affect them.”

The current policy has immigration officers decide a public charge by evaluating whether an applicant for a green card or an individual seeking to enter the United States on certain visas is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for support. To decide this, officers rely on multiple factors specified in the INA. They may also rely on the “affidavit of support,” a contract signed by the immigrant’s sponsor indicating that the sponsor will financially support the immigrant. This affidavit offers strong evidence that the immigrant will not become primarily dependent on the government.

With the proposed change, the assessment process would remain the same, except instead of deeming that the applicant would likely become dependent on the government, they could also define a public charge as someone who uses included government programs. The proposal expands the list of publicly-funded programs that officers may consider when deciding whether someone is considered a public charge. Expansion would mean that programs currently not included would be added, including food stamps, Section 8 housing assistance, Medicare Part D and all types of cash aid.

Those who are interested in getting more information on this issue is encouraged to attend the meeting. “We are hoping to help as many people as we can, letting them know what these changes might mean and how they can make sure to avoid harming their immigration status,” said Burgos.


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