Seattle will sponsor a series of 10 workshops over the next month to educate immigrants and others about the Trump administration’s new “public charge” rule, which applies to some people seeking U.S. visas and green cards.

Several states, including Washington, have sued the Trump administration over the new rule, and preliminary injunctions stopped the rule from taking effect last year. But the U.S. Supreme Court cleared away those injunctions this month. Though the lawsuits will continue, the Supreme Court allowed the rule to take effect on Monday, Feb. 24.

There already was a public-charge rule that said some noncitizens could be denied green cards (or deported, in very rare cases) if they were found to be dependent on the government, based on certain cash public-assistance programs they had used, such as Supplemental Security Income and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The Trump administration has updated the rule in ways that will allow the U.S. to deny green cards to more people. To determine whether people are or will be dependent on the government, immigration officers will apply a “totality of circumstances” test that can consider credit scores, an income threshold and an English proficiency standard, as well as age, health, education and skills. Immigration officers also will consider some additional, noncash public-assistance programs, such as food stamps.

The policy will make it “more difficult for low-income and working-class immigrants to apply for green cards and visas,” Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) said in a news release this week.

On the other hand, immigrants shouldn’t immediately dis-enroll from public-assistance programs that they rely on without advice about the complex issue, advocates say.


Every situation is unique, and the public-charge rule doesn’t apply to some categories of people, such as asylum-seekers and refugees. The rule also doesn’t apply to local public-assistance programs like Seattle’s utility discount program.

“Myths and misunderstandings about this rule have already caused immigrants to unnecessarily dis-enroll from basic needs programs,” OIRA said in the release.

Jorge Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, hosted a workshop on Monday for health care workers, case managers, teachers and community organizers.

The additional 10 workshops will be hosted by community organizations: Villa Comunitaria, HOPE-Eritrean Social Services, Somali Family Safety Task Force, Ukrainian Association of Washington State, Rainier Valley Food Bank, Chinese Information and Service Center, West African Community Council, Colectiva Legal del Pueblo and Seattle Goodwill.

Time, date and location information for the workshops, along with information about the new public-charge rule, is available at

OIRA is sponsoring the workshops with $375,000 from a rapid-response fund created by the City Council as part of Seattle’s 2020 budget.