In a response letter to four top Republican lawmakers, the Department of Homeland Security revealed it only initiated one case against an immigrant for becoming a “public charge,” or being primarily dependent upon the government, in fiscal year 2012. The case was later withdrawn.
While the department’s response to Republican Sens. Jeff Sessions, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch and Pat Roberts’ August oversight request offered an overview of the centuries-old federal public-charge restrictions, it noticeably avoided several of the senators’ direct questions and demonstrated potentially significant inadequacies in record-keeping by immigration officials, who legally should be enforcing public-charge rules for immigrants both inside and outside of the country.
The response, for example, failed to explain why immigrants are only assessed for their potential reliance on just two of the more than 80 federal means-tested welfare programs when the government determines if they are “public charges” prior to their entry into the U.S. — meaning that they are likely to become primarily dependent on federal aid for subsistence after arriving.