The following is a model letter on the public charge issue to be sent
to the welfare commissioners in all States. All States have now been sent
copies of the letter.
Commissioners - All States
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) of the Department of
Justice published a proposed rule in the Federal Register on May 26, 1999,
and will be issuing interim instructions which will state which benefits
a noncitizen may receive without fear of negative immigration consequences.
At the same time, the Department of State will issue to consular officers
abroad similar instructions to be used in issuing visas. Recent immigration
and welfare reform laws have generated considerable confusion about whether
the receipt of Federal, State, or local public benefits for which an alien
may be eligible renders him or her a "public charge" under the
immigration statutes governing admissibility, adjustment of status, and
deportation. We believe that these instructions and the proposed rule
will allay fears among the nations immigrant communities about what
public assistance benefits will be considered for "public charge"
The notice and instructions define "public charge" to mean
an alien who is primarily dependent on the government for subsistence,
as demonstrated by either receiving public cash assistance for income
maintenance, or by being institutionalized for long-term care at government
expense. The receipt of food stamp benefits will not result in an individual
being considered a public charge. Food stamp benefits will not be considered
even in areas where they are provided in the form of cash.
The policy specified in the instructions and the proposed notice will
allow non-citizens and their families to apply for food stamps and other
nutrition assistance benefits that they are entitled to receive without
fear of immigration consequences. It will also enhance public health and
transition to self-sufficiency for working families.
We are attaching a copy of a fact sheet and questions and answers that
INS has prepared.
Please communicate this information to your staff that administer the
Food Stamp Program, and let us know if any questions or concerns relating
to the Food Stamp Program arise.
Food and Nutrition Service
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