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Action Alert





November 5, 2018

To the Domestic Policy Council & Committees, State Government Affairs & Community Relations Council Directors and All Interested Parties:

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security released a 447-page proposed regulation that expands the applicability of the Immigration Act of 1882’s Public Charge provision. ”Public Charge” is a term used by U.S. immigration officials to refer to a documented immigrant who is considered likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence (i.e., cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care). This proposed regulation aggressively expands the concept of Public Charge to include even modest reliance on essential federal safety net programs (nutrition, housing, and health benefits like Medicaid), programs which support services provided by our network of partner agencies. Current Public Charge policy was intended to help legal immigrants become participating, productive, and healthy members of our society. However, DHS’ regulation turns that logic on its head. In short, because of this proposed regulation, immigrants could actually trigger a public health crisis by not getting the care they need, making them unhealthier as a result. It also will harm the workforces of our partner agencies, given their reliance on documented immigrants for services such as homecare. Experts estimate that the rule, if implemented, could chill as many as 26 million people nationwide from participating in these safety net programs.  

Benefits that Put a Documented Immigrant’s Status at Risk: 

As a result of using benefits that documented immigrants have paid for through their taxes, those immigrants risk being denied a visa, visa extension, or “green card” if they have used benefits within the past three years unless they can post a minimum of a $10,000 bond. Therefore, a documented immigrant (and there are no specific nations targeted: it makes no difference if you are a Mexican or an Israeli) will stand a greater risk of being deemed a public charge by even modest use of:  

  1. Medicaid (other than emergency room use – but this is likely to be misunderstood by many documented immigrants who fear hospitals will be a “trap to deportation”)

  2. Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidies for prescription drugs

  3. Cash Support for Income Maintenance (e.g., Supplemental Security Income (SSI))

  4. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

  5. Long-Term Care Benefits in an Institution at government expense (generally Medicaid-related)

  6. Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Programs, rental assistance, or public housing 

Action Steps: 

If a significant number of comments raise concerns about this regulation, it could delay the regulation’s adoption indefinitely. We ask you to evaluate the attached content to see if it is relevant to your federation and partner agencies.  If it is relevant, please take the following action steps and submit a letter to stop this regulation:  

  1. Read through our template letter, adapt it to your community, and submit it on

  2. Reach out to your partner agencies and see if their CEOs or Chairs of their Boards would submit letters as well. 

  3. Ensure that your Senators and Representatives know that you have weighed in on this pivotal issue by sending their offices a copy of your comment letter.

  4. Please send a copy of your comment letter to us for our records. 

Please find four key documents that will help you submit comments here:  (a) JFNA’s regulatory template letter; (b) instructions how to submit comments via the internet on; (c) a template cover letter to send to your Senators and Representatives when you send them your comment letter; and d) our backgrounder on the Public Charge proposed regulation.

In addition, the JFNA Strategic Health Resource Center invites you to participate in two upcoming tutorials on the Public Charge issue to answer any questions you may have about the proposed regulation itself, the possible impact to Jewish Federations, our partner agencies, or others, or how to construct and submit a comment letter. The tutorials will be held on Monday, November 12th, at 4:00 p.m. EST, and Tuesday, November 13th, at 2:00 p.m. EST. To participate, please dial in by calling: 877-304-2955, and enter passcode 682 377 4516.

Finally, please note that our JFNA Strategic Health Resource Team is here to assist you and your partner agencies in this effort. Please feel free to reach out to Jonathan Westin, Senior Director of Health Initiatives at, or Elizabeth Cullen, Counsel for Health Policy at    

We thank you in advance for your willingness to submit comments.


William C. Daroff
Senior Vice President for Public Policy &
Director of the Washington Office 

The Jewish Federations of North America
Wall Street Station
PO Box 157
New York, NY 10268

JFNA Annual Report