ASAN Statement on Final Public Charge Rule

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released their final rule on the public charge law. The public charge law requires DHS to keep immigrants who rely on the government to get the money they need to live out of the US or refuse to give them green cards if they are already here. The public charge law is racist, ableist, and grounded in the eugenics movement. It can only be changed by Congress. Regulations like the final rule can help minimize its impact on immigrants–or make it worse. 

We opposed a discriminatory public charge rule released by the Trump administration in 2019. The rule counted receipt of nearly all public benefits against immigrants, including Medicaid, which funds the home and community-based services (HCBS) many of us need to live in our communities. It also, by including disability as part of a required “health” factor and penalizing immigrants who couldn’t pay for their own care, required DHS to treat just having a disability as one reason to exclude people from the country. 

The new rule is a big improvement on the Trump-era rule, but there are still parts which will hurt immigrants with disabilities. The new rule does not count most government benefits, so immigrants are free to use non-cash benefits they are eligible for, such as Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) coverage, and SNAP, without their benefits being counted against them. Crucially, the rule also does not count HCBS.  DHS now has to look at the immigrant’s overall situation when making a decision about public charge, instead of making a decision based on just one or two factors. DHS can no longer treat disability, use of public benefits, or low income as automatic negatives. Although DHS will still consider the “health” of immigrants, DHS will look at standard health forms immigrants already have to file instead of scrutinizing immigrants’ disabilities in depth. 

We support all of these changes as necessary steps, but we are still disappointed that so many parts of this rule will still result in discrimination. In the public comments we submitted to the Biden administration, we urged DHS not to consider any public benefits, and, if they did do so, to take steps to limit the impact on people with disabilities. Unfortunately, the rule still does count cash benefits, including SSI and TANF benefits, against immigrants. This part of the rule will harm people with disabilities. Including TANF disadvantages low-income families, especially families of color. Including SSI harms people with disabilities. Some people with disabilities rely on SSI to pay for daily expenses. Many people with disabilities rely on SSI because states require disabled people to live in poverty in order to get services and supports we need to survive. 

We also urged DHS not to consider long-term institutionalization. The final rule does–immigrants with disabilities who have been institutionalized in the past or who are institutionalized right now will have this counted against them. DHS is now supposed to look at whether an immigrant’s past or present institutionalization violates the ADA. But overwhelming evidence shows that living in an institution is virtually never necessary. Immigrants with disabilities who once lived or now live in institutions do not deserve to have bad disability policy in the U.S. or another country counted against them. 

We understand that these regulations can only do so much. They are limited by the law itself. The very concept of a “public charge” is rooted in ableism, racism, and eugenics, as are many of the immigration laws in our country. Ultimately, this discrimination against immigrants with disabilities will persist until Congress changes the law. We therefore call upon Congress to eliminate public charge from the law for good. For more information on public charge, please contact Larkin Taylor-Parker, our Legal Director, at

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities. We work to empower autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us!