The following is a model letter on the public charge issue to be sent
to commissioners in all States. All States have now been sent copies
of the letter.
State Health Commissioners
Today, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) of the Department
of Justice published a proposed regulation and INS field guidance, which
will be implemented immediately, on public charge. The regulation and
guidance state which benefits noncitizens may receive without negative
immigration consequences. The State Department is issuing to its consulates
overseas comparable policy and guidance to be used in issuing visas. This
is to advise you that the INS regulation and field guidance state that
participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women,
Infants and Children (WIC) will not result in a determination of
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 the INS proposed rule and
field guidance will allay concerns among the nations immigrant communities
about what public benefits will be considered for "public charge"
The INS regulation and field guidance define "public charge"
to mean an alien who has become or is likely to become 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. Income maintenance programs
that will be considered for public charge purposes include Supplemental
Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, general assistance
programs for income maintenance purposes, and programs (including Medicaid)
supporting aliens who reside in an institution for long-term care.
Collectively, the INS regulation and field guidance specifically state
that participation in FNS Programs including the WIC Program, Food Stamps,
and other nutrition programs such as School Lunch and School Breakfast
Programs, and other supplementary and emergency food assistance programs,
will not result in an individual being considered a public charge.
WIC participants are not required to repay or terminate program benefits
in order to adjust immigration status. If children or family members born
in the U.S. participate in the WIC Program, it will not affect the immigration
status of other family members. In addition, there is no public charge
test for naturalization; therefore, participation in WIC will not affect
application for naturalization. These are all concerns which have arisen
in the WIC community. The INS regulation and field guidance are consistent
with policy developed in concert with the INS and State Department and
issued by the Food and Nutrition Service for the WIC Program in WIC Policy
Memorandum #98-7, dated March 19, 1998, entitled "Impact of Participation
in the WIC Program on Alien Status."
The policy specified in the INS proposed regulation and field guidance
will allow noncitizens and their families to apply for the WIC Program
that they are entitled to receive without immigration consequences. It
will also enhance public health and transition to self-sufficiency for
Enclosed is a copy of a fact sheet that INS has prepared. Please note
that receipt of benefits under the Medicaid Program (except in the case
of institutionalization for long-term care primarily at government expense)
or the Childrens Health Insurance Program will not be considered
in making a public charge determination.
Please communicate this information as soon as possible to your staff
that administer the WIC Program so that program applicants and participants
can be notified. Questions or concerns that may arise regarding WIC Program
participation and public charge should be raised to the appropriate staff
in the FNS regional office. Information about INS publication on
public charge and its impact on the WIC Program and other FNS programs
can be found on FNS Web Site at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns.
Food and Nutrition Service
cc: WIC State agencies
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