Along with the entire Feeding America network, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina strongly opposes the final public charge rule change posted by the Department of Homeland Security in the Federal Register on August 12, 2019. This rule will undercut efforts to address food insecurity and poverty by making it harder for immigrant families to access a range of food assistance and other services.
At Second Harvest Food Bank, we believe that access to food is an inherent right and that everyone deserves to eat. Working with our network of more than 460 partner programs across our 18 county service area, Second Harvest provides food for our neighbors no matter their background or situation.
On August 12, the Department of Homeland Security posted a change to the public charge rule in the Federal Register. To be effective on October 15, 2019, this rule change will broaden the definition of public benefits considered under public charge determinations to include participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Currently, federal immigration policy allows officials to deny entry, or legal permanent residency, to immigrants on the basis that they are likely to become a public charge, or dependent on government benefits as their main source of support, even though the reality is that this assistance may only be temporary. Only Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance and Medicaid long-term care are considered presently. While refugees, asylum seekers, green card holders, and others are exempt from the public charge determination, the fact remains that broadening the definition of public charge to include vital food assistance will force many families to make hard choices about whether to seek the services they need to survive.
Public charge is the term narrowly drawn to refer to non-citizens (other than those noted above) who are seeking legal status in the United States based on family, employer, or other circumstance, that may be denied legal status due to receiving selected government benefits.
Food is a basic need and we are committed to providing access to healthy, nutritious food for our neighbors. We will continue to serve those who come to us seeking food assistance, because we believe everyone deserves to eat.