Media Contact:

Emily Pickren

Statement attributed to James D. Weill, president, Food Research & Action Center  

WASHINGTON, August 12, 2019 — Today, the Trump administration posted the final public charge rule in the Federal Register. The rule would increase hunger and poverty across the nation, and force immigrant families — including those with U.S. citizen children — to make impossible choices between food and family. The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) strongly opposes this deeply flawed, mean-spirited rule.

The rule is slated to take effect on October 15 unless Congress or the courts act to stop or delay this ill-conceived rule.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) received more than 266,000 comments — “the vast majority of which opposed the rule,” according to DHS. The rule redefines what being a public charge means by counting wealth and income as the primary markers of a person’s future contribution, fundamentally changing who can enter and stay in the country.

In addition to making low-paid work a negative factor, it expands the list of public assistance programs to be considered for a public charge determination. Added to the list are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our nation’s first line of defense against hunger, as well as Medicaid and federal housing assistance. The rule does not apply to WIC, school meals, and other child and older adult nutrition programs.

The rule seems designed to scare away eligible immigrant families as much as or more than to affect permissible benefit use. SNAP participation is already limited to narrow categories of immigrants — the vast majority of whom are not subject to public charge determinations. In addition, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) are not subject to the public charge determinations contemplated in this rule. The rule also does not apply to many categories of immigrants, including refugees, asylees, survivors of domestic violence, and other protected groups.

Prior to its final publication, the specter of the rule — in conjunction with other attacks on immigrants by the Trump administration — has led to a chilling effect on the use of SNAP and other critical nutrition assistance programs, resulting in a poorer, sicker, and hungrier nation.

Immigrant families — whether comprised of children, older adults, veterans, low-income wage earners, and people with disabilities — often include U.S. citizens  who have been scared to use SNAP even though the new public charge rule would not apply to them.

This final rule is yet another cruel attempt by the Trump administration designed to instill fear and make it tougher for immigrant families — particularly families of color and low-income families — to enter and stay in the U.S. legally and to access programs that safeguard their health care, nutrition, housing, and economic security.

FRAC serves as the nutrition lead on the steering committee for Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign, which is leading a nationwide effort to reject the Trump administration’s attacks on access to health care, nutrition, housing, and economic security programs for millions of immigrant families. FRAC will be sharing resources and strategies to support the food security of immigrant families in the face of this rule and other threats.


The Food Research & Action Center is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States.