The following is a model letter on the public charge issue to be sent to commissioners in all states.
"Commissioners" of Child Nutrition Program State agencies
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 non-citizens 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 Child Nutrition Programs will not result in a determination of public charge.
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 nation’s immigrant communities what public benefits will be considered for "public charge" purposes.
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 receipt of benefits under FNS Programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), 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. Participants in the Child Nutrition Programs 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 Child Nutrition Programs, it will not affect the immigration status of other family members. In addition, there is no public charge test for naturalization; therefore, participation in the Child Nutrition Programs will not affect application for naturalization.
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 Children’s 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 Child Nutrition Programs. While we are not aware of any significant problems with the implementation of the recent immigration and welfare reform legislation in the Child Nutrition Programs, we believe it to be in the best interest of program beneficiaries that state administering agencies be prepared to deal with questions should they arise. Questions or concerns that may arise regarding this issue should be raised to the appropriate staff in the FNS regional office.
Food and Nutrition Service