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SABA North America Opposes Anti-immigrant expansion of “Public Charge"

Friday, October 12, 2018  
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For Immediate Release, October 12, 2018




The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed a new federal rule to create a much more expansive test for the definition of “public charge” with the intention of deterring new immigrants and reinterpreting a fundamental concept in immigration law.  SABA North America stands firm in its opposition to this plan and any others that aim to deter legal immigrants to this country. 


“This proposal is another example of this Administration’s attempt to subvert legal immigration in America,” said President Sundeep Sandhu. “Immigrants are being punished for being too young, too old, too poor or not able-bodied. They are being told, yet again, that they are unwelcome and unwanted.”


Under the proposal, the definition of a “public charge” would include an immigrant “who receives one or more public benefits,” and examine whether the person is likely to receive public benefits at any time in the future. It also expands the types of benefits that a public charge may receive to include almost all types of public benefits including those that are temporary in nature.  Further, the proposed changes will take a “bright line rule” and turn it into more a subjective assessment, making decisions almost impossible to legally challenge.


The changes would skew immigration to this country to be based predominately on one’s wealth rather than one’s overall potential contribution to the community. It also penalizes anyone who has accepted public benefits, including benefits provided by law and those previously otherwise excluded. Immigrants who use programs designed to help with health, nutrition and housing are now in danger of being denied permanent residency or citizenship.  According to a 2018 Migration Policy Institute Report, 61% of non-citizen Bangladeshi families, 48% of non-citizen Pakistani and 11% of non-citizen Indian families receive public benefits that would be scrutinized under the proposed rule. 


Tuesday’s official publication of the rule started a 60-day comment period. SABA North America intends to submit comments, which DHS is required by law to review. We encourage families and other organizations to submit their comments as well about the inherent bias and negative effect the rule will have on immigration so DHS can address those substantive issues before issuing a final rule.


If you're unsure how to comment, this form from SAALT can provide you with guidance. 



SABA North America (formerly NASABA/North American South Asian Bar Association) is a voluntary bar organization and serves as an umbrella organization to 26 chapters in the United States and Canada. SABA North America is a recognized forum for professional growth and advancement for South Asian attorneys in North America and seeks to protect the rights and liberties of the South Asian community across the continent. Learn more at


Priya Bathija

Vice President of Public Relations

South Asian Bar Association of North America