REVISED: October 1, 2018
On September 22, 2018, the Trump administration announced the upcoming publication of a proposed rule that if implemented as written, would prevent immigrants from securing lawful permanent residence and remaining with their families in the United States, simply because at any time in the past, they (or their dependents) received some type of basic health care support, nutrition assistance, or other vital services.
What is the current public charge rule?
Under current law, immigrants can be blocked from obtaining a green card on public charge grounds if they have received or are likely to receive public benefits in the form of cash assistance, such as Supplemental Security Income or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The government must believe the immigrant is “primarily dependent” on these benefits to be declared a public charge.
What are the proposed changes?
In the proposed regulations, a “public charge” will be defined as an immigrant who receives any public benefits at all, even if they are not primarily dependent on benefits. These non-cash benefits will now include:
Benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
Section 8 housing assistance or rental assistance.
Medicaid benefits (except for emergency Medicaid or certain school or disability-based benefits for children).
Premium and cost-sharing subsidies under Medicare Part D.
Subsidized housing under Housing Act of 1937.
What are the implications of this rule?
The proposed rule would raise the invisible wall to massive new heights. Under the proposal, millions of current and aspiring immigrants who have done nothing wrong and simply followed the rules could be separated from their families and prevented from pursuing the American dream. The proposed rule is the Trump administration's latest assault on immigrant families who are integral to the fabric of American society and have been pivotal to our nation's success.
The proposed rule would weaken America. Americans evaluating this proposal should ask themselves whether they would be here had the government held their ancestors to the standards articulated in the rule. Far and wide, the answer is no.
This plan will damage the American economy by jeopardizing the ability of hard-working, entrepreneurial immigrants from obtaining permanent residence. Overwhelming nonpartisan evidence and analysis shows that working-class immigrants are essential to a strong U.S. economy. They elevate GDP, boost tax revenue, grow the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, and create jobs for native-born American workers on a wide scale. This proposed rule would weaken our economy by creating arbitrary barriers to lawful status for those who may be just starting out on their path to economic prosperity.
From an operational perspective, the rule will increase USCIS case processing delays that have already reached crisis proportions. Pervasive delays in USCIS processing of immigration benefit applications upend the lives of immigrants and U.S. citizens alike. They cause job loss, prolong the separation of families, and threaten the viability of American businesses. This rule would impose a massive administrative burden on USCIS that will only exacerbate those delays.
The proposed rule is just that - a proposed rule. It is not the law and the public will have the opportunity to prevent it from becoming the law, by submitting comments in opposition to it once it is officially published. More details on how to do just that will be forthcoming when the rule is formally published.
This rule represents yet another attempt by the Trump administration to fundamentally change our immigration system without Congressional action. We call upon Congress to once and for all, pass immigration legislation that recognizes the importance of the family unit and that facilitates the development of strong communities.
Are there exemptions to this rule?
Yes. Those belonging to vulnerable populations such as refugees, asylees, and other special immigrants including those applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) given a blanket waiver, victims of domestic violence applying under the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA), Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJS) neglected and abandoned by their parents, trafficking victims and other crime victims, among others. To learn more, read this article from the American Immigration Council.
I’m affected by this development. What should I do?
It is important to keep abreast of any developments. If you are able to, submit comments on www.regulations.gov to inform the government how this proposed rule will affect you and your loved ones. If you are affected by this development and would like information about the green card process, please contact us. We are here to help. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn for up-to-date immigration news.
Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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