Summary One in Six Adults in Immigrant Families with Children Avoided Public Programs in 2022 Because of Green Card Concerns
Millions of Children Exposed to Greater Risks of Material Hardship
Dulce Gonzalez, Jennifer M. Haley, Genevieve M. Kenney
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Following the Trump administration’s proposed expansion of the “public charge” rule to consider the use of noncash public benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and housing assistance, in applications for green cards or temporary visas, many immigrant families, including those with children, avoided public benefits for fear of jeopardizing future immigration status. Though implementation of the rule was halted in March 2021, immigrant families with children continued to express reluctance to participate in public programs in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, even among families for whom the rule would not have applied.

In this summary, we draw on data from the Urban Institute’s December 2022 Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey to provide an update on the share of adults in immigrant families living with children under age 19 who avoided noncash government benefits in the past year because of concerns that receiving benefits would affect their or a family member’s ability to obtain a green card in the future (also known as chilling effects).

We find that in December 2022, 1 in 6 adults in immigrant families with children reported they avoided noncash government benefits in the past year because of green card concerns, a rate that was nearly twice as high as that for adults in immigrant families who did not live with children. At the same time, 4 in 10 adults in immigrant families with children reported experiencing one or more of six forms of material hardship. This analysis implies that chilling effects may be keeping as many as three to four million children in immigrant families from accessing public benefits that could help address their basic needs.

Additional outreach and education to inform families that the use of public benefits for eligible family members, including US citizen children, will not jeopardize families’ immigration status; improvements to program enrollment and renewal processes; and linguistically and culturally responsive assistance from trusted community-based organizations could help better support immigrant families with children in obtaining needed benefits.

Research Areas Children and youth Families Social safety net
Tags Immigrant access to the safety net Immigrant children, families, and communities Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Housing subsidies
Policy Centers Health Policy Center
Research Methods Data analysis
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