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Higher Education Leaders Recognize Significant Harm to Immigrant Families Resulting From USCIS’ Final Public Charge Rule

Immigrant students should focus on studies, not food insecurity

August 13, 2019

Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration and Services (USCIS) issued its final public charge regulation, which is scheduled for publication tomorrow, August 14th. The new rule will undermine the success of immigrant and international students and their families and negatively impact higher education institutions, according to the Presidents’ Alliance for Higher Education and Immigration and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education. We are deeply disappointed that despite the strong concerns raised in thousands of comments, including those submitted by our two organizations and numerous higher education institutions, the final regulation still ignores the extensive evidence that demonstrated the significant, adverse impacts that the rule will have on immigrant families, including U.S. citizen children of immigrants, as well as entire communities and our nation.

The final regulation will penalize low-income immigrants, who receive “one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period,” including any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs. Critically, the public charge regulation would jeopardize the ability of millions of noncitizens to obtain green cards. Regardless of some additional clarification, the rule will also chill the use of critically needed benefits by U.S. citizens, their families, and others eligible for assistance.

Furthermore, despite the extensive research showing the benefits of immigrants to our country and the critical role of postsecondary education in boosting upward mobility and helping the economy, this public charge regulation will deter immigrant youth and adult learners from enrolling in higher education and workforce training programs and will significantly harm the U.S. society and economy.

Teresita B. Wisell, Executive Director, Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education, stated: “The regulation will disproportionately affect community college students, as one third of community college students have family incomes of less than $20,000. The rule will not only undermine the ability of students and their families to succeed at our nation’s community colleges—which our nation universally acknowledges as a critical pipeline to the workforce and further education—but discourages individuals from accessing the services for which they are otherwise eligible. A hungry student is a student who cannot study, cannot focus on her studies, and whose success is uncertain. This regulation deprives immigrant students and their families from accessing the services needed to be healthy and productive contributors to our communities and country.”

Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director, Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, stated: “The government’s public charge regulation is an ill-conceived measure that will undermine the ability of higher education to contribute to our nation’s economic engine, shrink the tax base, and discourage future immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators from coming to our country. Our colleges and universities must remain open and competitive to immigrant and international students. This policy will increase the barriers for immigrant students seeking to pursue higher education, and deter others from utilizing our nation’s immigration channels to come and contribute to our nation. The Alliance will support all efforts to rescind this regulation and restore our nation’s commitment to immigrant students and their families.

The non-partisan Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration brings together college and university leaders dedicated to increasing public understanding of how immigration policies and practices impact our students, campuses and communities, and supporting policies that create a welcoming environment for undocumented, immigrant, and international students. The Alliance is comprised of over 430 presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, serving over four million students in 41 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

The Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE) is a national network of community colleges and other professional organizations committed to increasing educational and career opportunities for immigrant and refugee students. CCCIE builds the capacity of community colleges to accelerate immigrant and refugee success and raises awareness of the essential role these colleges play in advancing immigrant integration through education. CCCIE’s work is guided by a Blue Ribbon Panel of community college leaders, representing over 50 colleges serving an estimated 1.2 million students.

Below we provide some additional preliminary information on the final ruling, including the timeline, who it impacts, and next steps.



Public Charge FAQs

When does the public charge rule go into effect?
60 days after it is published. It is scheduled to be published on Wednesday, August 14, and likely will go into effect October 15th. Legal challenges to the rule may impede its implementation. The public charge rule is not retroactive.
Who is impacted by the public charge rule? 
The public charge test applies to immigrants who are applying for admission or adjustment of status. The public charge rule does not apply to those who are already lawful permanent residents (LPRs also known as Green Card holders). It also does not apply to asylees or refugees, U.S. citizen children or other U.S. citizen family members. Further, it should be noted that the public charge rule does not apply to undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for the public benefits.
Educational benefits: The final rule reaffirms that educational benefits, including Pell grants and federal financial aid, are not included under the public charge rule.
The final rule also specifies some exemptions to the applicability of the public charge rule, including the use of Medicaid benefits for children under 21 and pregnant women.
What is the impact on international students?
DHS offers some clarifications, noting that foreign students and exchange visitors applying for a nonimmigrant visa already must demonstrate to the Department of State that “he or she is not likely at any time in the future to become a public charge,” noting that in order to obtain a visa, foreign students must show that they have the “financial resources to pay for coursework and living expenses” and that they have “sufficient funds to study in the United States (p. 153).” However, the final rule does set a new condition for the approval of stay and change of status applications that individuals must show that they have not received one or more public benefits as defined in the rule for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.
Bottom line:
Even populations that are not directly affected by the public charge test are impacted. Recent research has confirmed that the fear, confusion and uncertainty created by the new rule has resulted in chilling effects, with those who would otherwise be eligible for benefits dropping out of programs, such as SNAP.  Overall, those in immigrant families (regardless of their immigration or citizenship status) have increasingly avoided participation in a variety of support programs, including public benefits.  More analysis needs to be done to fully understand the rule’s impact on foreign students and visitors, though as with the chilling effects on other populations, the impacts on foreign students and visitors also arise through the uncertainty and confusion created by the rule.
Next Steps: CCCIE and Presidents’ Alliance will be providing additional FAQs and resources from the PIF campaign to share with campus staff to help them support students and families and with campus populations so as to help reduce confusion and uncertainty.

Higher Education Leaders Call Proposed “Public Charge” Rule Harmful and Counterproductive for Immigrants and the Country

October 3, 2018

Washington, D.C. –The Department of Homeland Security has proposed regulations that would penalize low-income immigrants, who receive or who are “likely to receive” public benefits, such as health, housing, and food assistance, that are critical to ensuring they enroll and succeed in higher education. Under the proposed rule, which substantially expands the definition of “public charge,” legally authorized immigrants who access basic nutrition, housing, and health programs, could jeopardize their chances of obtaining green cards or restrict any future opportunities to change or upgrade their immigration status. As researchers have shown, these proposed regulations will produce fear and confusion as lawful immigrants decide to forego enrollment for themselves and their families in these programs out of fear of harming their future eligibility to stay permanently in this country. Read more.

The Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education and the Presidents’ Alliance for Higher Education and Immigration submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security to express our opposition to this proposed “Public Charge” rule. The comments outlined our top 10 ten concerns. This higher ed template was developed by CCCIE and the Presidents’ Alliance, collaboration with the Center for Law and Social Policy and with input from the National Skills Coalition. Institutions and individuals can use this template to submit and modify their own comments.

CCCIE Shares National Survey Results at D.C. Briefing and Steps Colleges Can Take to Advance Immigrant Student Success

November 2015

CCCIE convened a diverse group of stakeholders in Washington, D.C.—including community college administrators and faculty, CBOs, researchers, funders, policy experts, and government officials—to discuss findings from its National Survey on Increasing Opportunities for New Americans at Community Colleges and explore the steps colleges and their partners can take to advance college completion, career readiness, and the full integration of immigrant and refugee students into American society. Guatam Ramchandani, CEO of GlobalSource, presented the survey results and Teresita Wisell, CCCIE Executive Director and Vice President, Continuing Education and Workforce Development at Westchester Community College, moderated the panel discussion.

CCCIE’s first-of-its-kind national survey, which was launched in March 2015, collected input from 160 community college respondents in 33 states that, taken together, account for well over 80% of the nation’s foreign-born residents. Respondents included a cross section of college staff, including presidents, vice presidents, deans, ESL and other faculty, program directors, as well as staff from workforce development and student services. While more than one-third of the respondents said their colleges include explicit references to support of immigrant students in their strategic or high-level plans, the survey found a wide variability in actual programs implemented on the ground.

Areas of Investment vs. Gaps in Services

The survey sheds light on the areas most colleges are currently investing in to address immigrant students’ success and also revealed where there are clear gaps in services. For example, while many colleges are investing resources to strengthen ESL instruction and the transition of ABE/ESL students to college programs, as well as other academic support and advising services, respondents reported less success in their colleges’ capacity to prepare immigrant students to meet workforce requirements. A majority of respondents indicated a need for strengthening ties with employers and developing more job-related training and support for immigrants, including contextualized ESL career pathway programs. Respondents also reported limited capacity to track immigrant students’ success through collection of data.

Building Communities of Practice

“We conducted this survey to learn more about the challenges and opportunities community colleges face as they serve immigrant students, noted Teresita Wisell, Executive Director of CCCIE and Vice President for Continuing Education and Workforce Development at Westchester Community College, which hosts and supports CCCIE. “It was clear to us that, in many cases, colleges were not focusing on immigrant students as a specific subset, and those that were did not have an opportunity to share their successes, as well as the challenges and obstacles they’ve experienced.” She added that CCCIE intends to leverage the survey results to build communities of practice among colleges to learn from successes and develop additional resources. Among the tools being developed is a Data Metrics Template to help colleges develop common indicators for monitoring the progress of immigrant students toward their education and career goals and designing interventions to accelerate their success. Download the survey summary and slide presentation to learn more about CCCIE’s key findings and recommendations.

Linking Survey Results with WIOA Implementation

A distinguished panel of speakers with expertise in immigrant education and workforce development issues reflected on the survey findings and commented on the broader policy and practice implications, including how community colleges and policy makers might use the survey results “as a tool for readiness assessment of WIOA implantation,” said Lul Tesfai, Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education. She noted that the survey focuses on many of the areas prioritized in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act legislation, including career pathways and coordination of services across the adult education and workforce training spheres. She urged community colleges to join the workforce development boards involved in planning WIOA services at the local level.

Community College Initiatives: Miami Dade College and LaGuardia Community College

Other panelists, including Dr. Malou C. Harrison, President of North Campus at Miami Dade College, and John Hunt, Executive Director for Adult Community Learning at LaGuardia Community College, commented on steps their colleges are taking to serve their growing immigrant student populations. For example, Miami Dade College offers an American Dream College Scholarship for both immigrant students, regardless of status, and native-born students, and provides extensive navigational and advising services for students, starting in high school and extending through the first year of college. Initiatives at LaGuardia Community College include the Welcome Back Center model that serves foreign trained healthcare professionals, the NY-BEST courses pairing basic skills/ESL instruction with technical content, and the First in the World federal project which targets college entry, persistence, and graduation and also looks at how ESL students transition to the credit side of the college.

Opportunities for Community Colleges—DACA and Pell Grants

Only half of the students eligible to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which offers temporary relief from deportation and potential work authorization, have actually done so, said Margie McHugh, Director, National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, Migration Policy Institute. “This represents a real opportunity for community colleges to reach out to those students who lack a high school diploma and help them transition from the noncredit to the credit side of the college.” She added that DACA students are also authorized to access Title I WIOA Funds.

Immigrant students can also be served through the Ability to Benefit provision, which is part of the Higher Education Act, Tesfai noted. The provision states that high school students without a high school diploma can enroll in community colleges and access federal financial aid—Pell Grants—if they are enrolled in an eligible career pathway program. “WIOA is not the only source of funding,” noted Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, Senior Policy Analyst, National Skills Coalition. “In fact, there is $30 billion available through Pell Grants versus $3 billion through WIOA.”

Link to Amanda’s blog post ›

We encourage you to use the survey results to benchmark your colleges’ best practices, and please send us your success stories and challenges in serving your immigrant and refugee student populations. Send to: