PORTLAND, ME – On September 8, 2022, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a final rule to be published in the Federal Register that concludes years of upheaval and uncertainty for immigrant communities. The rule “restores the historical understanding” of a “public charge,” a term that refers to a person who is “primarily dependent on the Government for subsistence,” and immigrants deemed likely to become a public charge are regularly denied green card benefits. Under the Trump Administration, the criteria for a public charge was changed to include non-cash government benefits including Medicaid and nutrition assistance, which drastically reduced the number of green cards awarded to prospective immigrants and led to nine lawsuits as well as a record-breaking 250,000+ public comments.

With this final rule now announced, Maine’s immigrant communities and their advocates can finally breathe a big sigh of relief. In the context of the larger battles for immigration reform, this ruling is a major victory. 

In January 2020, when the future of this policy was still very much undetermined, MIRC’s Executive Director Mufalo Chitam said, “Getting on a path to legal immigration is the number one goal of every immigrant family… If Maine is to thrive, immigrants must be able to continue to come to the U.S. and to Maine without the threat of backlash for using services.” This statement rings true today, and we are delighted to learn of this new final rule. The previously proposed changes to the public charge policy had a chilling effect on immigrants; thankfully, the new regulations ensure that the public charge policy is one of dignity and reason rather than fear and discrimination. 

“In keeping with our nation’s values, this policy treats all those we serve with fairness and respect,” said US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ur Jaddou in response to the ruling. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas added, “This action ensures fair and humane treatment of legal immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members.” We are encouraged to hear these sentiments from our nation’s immigration policy authorities.

The final ruling will take effect later this year. Soon, immigrants will gain access to food, health, and housing assistance programs for themselves and their family members without the fear that using these services could potentially harm their immigration status in the future. This is a ruling to celebrate, indeed.


Contact: Tobin Williamson, Advocacy Manager at tobinw@maineimmigrantrights.org