George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason’s Institute for Immigration Research warns of negative consequences in proposed changes to immigration rules

November 30, 2018

The Institute for Immigration Research (IIR) at George Mason University submitted comments to the Trump administration criticizing proposed changes to the “public charge” rule.

“Public charge” is a term used by U.S. immigration officials to refer to a person who is considered primarily dependent on the government through receipt of public cash income assistance, such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), or institutionalization for long-term care at the government’s expense. These individuals may be denied admission to the United States.

The proposed changes would expand the scope of programs that would be considered as “public charge” to include programs related to housing, nutrition and health care. These programs include Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP—also known as Food Stamps) and Section 8 housing, among others.

“[The comments] were written in response to an issue where there is a great deal of academic research supporting the argument that the new rule will be harmful to both immigrants and U.S. citizen families,” said Michele Waslin, program coordinator for IIR.

“Because our focus is the economic impact of immigrants, and because we believe this change could have an economic impact, we thought it was important to weigh in,” Waslin said.

According to IIR’s comments, the proposed rule would negatively affect U.S. citizens by putting parents and children at risk of losing essential services and discouraging parents from enrolling their children in important programs.

“Previous studies have shown that changes in immigration policy, such as the new proposed rule, are linked to a decline in benefit enrollment rates for citizen children of immigrants,” IIR wrote.

Proposed changes could put children at risk for food insecurity, nutritional deficiencies, learning difficulties, increased emergency room visits and chronic diseases, the institute said. The comments from IIR also connect well-being to other outcomes, such as high school and college completion, higher test scores and improved mental health.

Additionally, IIR’s comments claim the proposed rule will keep American families separate because some U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who want to petition for their close family members will not be able to meet the new income and public charge requirements. The new requirements would mean anyone who wishes to sponsor a family member must show proof of an annual household income of 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

To read the full comments, visit the IIR website at

Michele Waslin can be reached at or 703-993-5833.

For more information, contact Mary Lee Clark at or 703-993-5118.