Press Releases

Contact: Michele Kayal
Phone: 202-866-0648
Email: michelek@firstfocus.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Statement: Biden directive on public charge will clear the way for critical assistance to children

Children of Immigrants

President Biden is expected to sign an executive order today directing a review of the public charge rule and other actions to remove barriers to legal immigration, including access to benefits.  

“We applaud the Biden administration for taking steps to rescind the public charge rule, which directly targeted children in immigrant families, including U.S. citizen children. The mere existence of the rule has served as a scare tactic and has caused thousands of children and families to avoid health insurance, food assistance, and other life-sustaining programs, including during the pandemic when families need assistance most. We look forward to seeing the government rescind the rule in its entirety and take further steps to rebuild trust with immigrant families and support them in enrolling in programs for which they are eligible.”

Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus on Children

Children of immigrants make up roughly one-quarter of all U.S. children. They are the fastest-growing group of children in the country. Access to essential public benefits for them and their families will decrease child poverty and build a future generation of healthy adults with better educational and economic outcomes.

Since the public charge rule was first floated in 2018, its chilling effect has resulted in thousands of children avoiding critical services for which they are eligible. In that time, the uninsured rates among Latino children widened for the first time in a decade, rising to 8.1% in 2018 and 9.2% in 2019. Additionally, a survey of immigrant families in December 2019 found that the public charge rule caused approximately 48% to avoid food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps,  and 45% to avoid Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Additionally, the rule caused families to drop off programs that were not included in the public charge determination, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and free or reduced-price school lunches. For more on ways that the public charge rule hurt children, please see our fact sheet.

Rescinding the public charge rule is vital to the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic. Many immigrant parents are working in essential jobs during this pandemic. In fact, over 5 million undocumented immigrants are working in essential jobs and more than half of them have at least one child in the household. These children and families are serving their communities and our country during a public health emergency, and they should be able to access key assistance programs that support children’s health and development.