News + Advocacy

U.S. Immigration: Consequences of a Revised ‘Public Charge’ Rule

As of October 15th, the Trump administration will be implementing a revised ‘public charge’ immigration rule that increases restrictions on those seeking permanent residency (a green card). Here’s what you need to know about how this refocused policy will affect legal immigration and the country as a whole …

During the process of petitioning to become a green card holder, you fill out a number of forms and provide a plethora of evidence that proves you meet the requirements of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You also have to pass a medical examination that has its own strict health stipulations and attend an interview to get final approval at your nearest U.S. embassy.

One of the current prerequisites of U.S. immigration is that you won’t become a ‘public charge’ — a financial burden to U.S. taxpayers — meaning that approval could be denied to anyone who was already primarily dependent on public assistance programs. For all immigration filings that seek United States permanent residency, a financial threshold has to be met before entry into the country or permission to stay can be granted. For example, as part of the family-based visa application, an Affidavit of Support has to be filed — and approved by the USCIS — that shows the sponsor (a U.S. citizen family member) is financially able to fully provide for the incoming immigrant.

So what’s new about the Trump administration’s ruling if a ‘public charge’ condition already exists?

The key difference is in the wording. Previously, applicants could be refused a visa/green card if they were already primarily dependent on public assistance programs. It now stipulates that anyone deemed more likely than not to use certain public benefits at any point in the future could be denied.

People seeking permanent legal status will now have to pass a new test that will determine — more likely than not — whether they will need access to welfare in the future, and/or include possible strikes against someone if they’ve used Medicaid, food stamps or housing vouchers for a combined period of twelve months over three years.

Consequences of this could be that anyone hoping to apply for permanent residency in the future may be put off from accessing vital health services or essential welfare that they or their families could really need. And while there are specified exemptions for asylum-seekers and refugees, these special dispensations seem arbitrary and lack coherent application when being implemented for the military. For example, some active-duty service personnel and their families would be allowed to access benefits without negative outcomes when seeking a green card, but this same exemption does not apply to veterans.

Active-duty service members who are immigrant noncitizens are allowed to use benefits without having it weigh against them as a “public charge” in the future. So are the family members of active-duty immigrant service members. But immigrants who are the spouses or children of active-duty service members who are U.S. citizens are not included in the exception, meaning their use of benefits while their spouses were on active duty could jeopardize their future in the U.S. | via ProPublica

Imagine serving this country or having devoted time to doing so in the past and then not being able to become a permanent resident because your need for public assistance counts against the contributions you’ve made through your service. And that’s not to say that migrants who don’t work or who haven’t served in the military aren’t valuable to this land, it just strikes me as particularly wilful in its demonstration of a lack of care for those of us not born here.

Other far-reaching, adverse implications would predominately rest on low-income migrant families or any migrant household that unexpectedly hits harder times and uses benefits as a lifeline. The health of individuals in these households, which often include children, will bear the brunt of the fear around potentially compromising any future eligibility for a green card. As seen in California — which sparked legal challenges from two counties against this administration and its new policy — immigrants are already dropping out of benefit programs that are vital to supplementing their income or protecting their wellbeing. This could have lasting implications on food insecurity, increased rates of child poverty and reductions in overall community health if a proportion of the people living there cannot try to thrive without undue burden.

California asked a federal judge in San Francisco to block Trump’s ruling

Communities could also suffer through this ruling because legal, noncitizen immigrants make up a sizeable number of people who work in industries that rely on them being part of the workforce to keep those sectors alive. And even if they do need benefits — approximately 10 million of the 35 million legal immigrants in the United States use Medicaid and food stamps — usage of these services actually contribute to the economy.

Critics of the public charge rule say it’s not only cruel but could harm the greater U.S. economy. According to a 2018 report from the nonpartisan Fiscal Policy Institute, the economy could lose as much as $33.8 billion and 230,000 jobs if 35% of immigrants who use public assistance such as Medicaid and food stamps leave those programs. | via CNBC Politics

In total, 20 states have now made moves to block this new policy from taking effect, and I think each one of them has valid concerns that should be looked into and researched thoroughly before the public charge criteria becomes so broad it could have devastating ramifications for so many people.

The quote on the Statue of Liberty that shines her golden light for all to see has to stand for something — and I’m trying to hold on to that as much as I can, especially as an immigrant myself — but believing that the tired, poor, huddled masses who yearn to breathe free are welcomed here is getting tested every day.

How You Can Help:

Sign this petiton, via the ACLU, to send a comment to the Dept. Homeland Security to stop this new ‘public charge’ policy.

What are your thoughts on this new ruling? Is this policy too broad and arbitrary or do you fully support its implementation?

6 thoughts on “U.S. Immigration: Consequences of a Revised ‘Public Charge’ Rule”

  1. When it comes to Trump’s administration and immigrants, it’s hardly surprising that they’d try to implement something like this.

    Not that the UK can talk with the wage threshold being moved higher for immigrants and the status of EU nationals in the UK after Brexit.

    Too many countries seem to be scapegoating immigrants for all there woes at the moment, it’s such a shame


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