Public Charge & Immigration

January 30, 2020: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the public charge rule change will take effect on February 24th. Per this guidance, DHS will not consider an immigrant’s receipt of the listed benefits in the new rule before that date when determining public charge.

The DHS announcement follows the the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision to lift a nationwide injunction blocking implementation of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) new “public charge” rules that penalize immigrants who use certain government programs, such as Medi-Cal.

Contra Costa County Employment & Human Services (EHSD) is monitoring developments related to the public charge ruling, working with our community partners, and providing updates as they are available.

View/Download Press Release

In the meantime, there are no changes to our County’s processes, rules, or eligibility standards pertaining to immigration. We understand that members of immigrant communities may have concerns, and we encourage them to consult reliable sources, such as trained immigration attorneys, to discuss their specific situations.

Immigration And “Public Charge” Rule Changes

The new Public Charge rule, would expand the types of benefits that may be considered for “public charge,” affecting programs that help struggling, low-income individuals feed their families and themselves, stay healthy, and ultimately become self-sufficient. For the first time, use of non-cash programs such as Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, known as CalFresh in California) and housing assistance could be taken into account when decisions are made about entry into the country and adjustment of immigration status.

This public charge determination, indicating a person may be likely to become dependent on the government for subsistence, could be used as grounds to reject a legal immigrant’s application to keep his/her legal status to stay in the U.S. or to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (obtain a green card), overturning a century of existing policy and practice.

*Benefits that do NOT fall under DHS’ proposed rule changes include public education (including Head Start), national school lunch programs, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and Veterans benefits.

Note: Public charge does not apply to some categories of immigrants, such as refugees, persons granted asylum and certified trafficking victims. Also, there is no public charge test when a legal permanent resident applies for naturalized citizenship.

What You Can Do

Learn more about the new Public Charge rule.
You may also visit the California Department of Social Services.
In addition, we will update this page as more information is available.

Concerned organizations and community members can contact their local representatives at any time.

Contra Costa County Supervisors Comment on Public Charge

Board of Supervisors Response to Proposed Rulemaking: Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds (December 7, 2018)


If you need legal guidance related to immigration, we encourage you to seek guidance from a reputable immigration service provider or an attorney. Below is a partial list** of resources that may be helpful.

Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach

Bay Area Legal Aid

California Health and Human Services Agency Public Charge Guide

Catholic Charities

Immigrant Legal Resource Center

Immigration Advocates

Stand Together Contra Costa

Protecting Immigrant Families

** Inclusion of an organization does not imply endorsement of its services, nor does exclusion reflect on any agency’s contribution to the community.