On August 14th, 2019, the U.S. Homeland Security Department (DHS) released an updated version on what is considered a “public charge.” They did this by publishing a document of over 200 pages — the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds. This document is particularly significant to immigrants because it stipulates the grounds on which a person may or may not acquire legal status in the U.S. along with other things. However, as it is with much of these statements, it’s rather complicated to understand at first glance. But, don’t worry! We’ve taken the liberty to summarize it for you.
The policy on “public charge” has been around for quite some time now. The whole idea lies within the hopes that whoever is trying to gain legal status in the United States is not or is not likely to become a financial burden to the government. Otherwise, if an undocumented person is found to be or have the possibility of becoming a financial burden of some sort, then they are considered a “public charge,” hence making them vulnerable to deportability. As transactional and detached from humanity as that sounds, this is a reality that needs to be maneuvered through with a lot of care to try to obtain favorable results.
I know emotions have been all over the place since news about this broke, but, as I said before, we’ve got you covered with all of this information. Let’s dive into it, shall we?
What is Stated Within the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds?
In this document, the DHS specifies who can be considered a “public charge”, which can lead to the denial of legal status in the United States. A lot of these considerations are directly linked to the use of public aid and benefits that someone may have used or currently uses despite getting their legal status approved.
What are the Public Benefits Being Monitored?
As per the USCIS website, the benefits they’ll use to consider as “public charge” is as follows:
- Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Federal, state or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” in the state context, but which may exist under other names)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or formerly called “Food Stamps”)
- Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)
- Public Housing under section 9 of the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. 1437 et seq.
- Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions)
The DHS explained that aid CAN be taken. They only frown upon it if an undocumented person has used public aid or benefits for a period of 12 months or more within a sum of 36 months. It is important to note that in this case, the DHS will be focusing on 36 months altogether. They will not be paying mind if the usage was through consecutive months or not.
What Else is Going to be Taken Into Consideration to Determine Someone as a “Public Charge”?
In order for someone to not be considered a financial burden to the government, people seeking their legal status should have the ability to contribute to the workforce, has received some type of higher education, and have some proficiency in English.
Who is Exempted From These Grounds?
If the person is seeking asylum or is a refugee, these grounds DO NOT apply to them. Also, public aid can be used if it’s going to have a second-hand benefit to those who have acquired legal status already. For instance, if an undocumented parent uses public aid such as food stamps or medical aid for their children, who happen to be U.S. citizens, then the parent shouldn’t be affected by these grounds.
Since the announcement of these new grounds, many undocumented immigrants have ended using their aid. Unfortunately, not everyone needs to stop using their benefits. My advice to those going through the immigration process is to discuss any decision with their immigration lawyer prior to taking action. Remember, anyone who is seeking asylum or is a refugee does not need to stop receiving public benefits.
So, What Now?
If you think that these grounds are really strict, you’re not alone. These rules have raised the bar for anyone trying to come into the United States. Prior to this administration, the DHS was not looking too much into the language proficiency and education of hopeful immigrants. However, our current administration seems to enjoy to up the ante on anything relating to immigration.
After going over this document, I’ve realized that a lot of these new rules seem to be a bit problematic.
Let’s take a look at the parents or family members of U.S. citizens. Under the new rule, hopeful immigrants should be able to fend for themselves. This means that they can work and can speak some English. But, how could that be possible for an elderly person? It is no secret that once many people get to a certain age, they can experience different issues, such as health conditions, that may not allow them to perform the tasks that the government is asking of them. As always, our hope is that the government is merciful. I mean, the government wouldn’t deny the parent of a U.S. citizen, who is all law-abiding and practically a model American, the legal status for their parents, now would they? No, that’d be unlikely, right? Well, I wouldn’t know that for sure, but those that are middle-class naturalized or U.S. born citizens usually have more luck than those who fall below the middle-class socioeconomic rank. Let that sink in.
This new rule can also have an impact on family immigration. Ever since Trump took office, he spoke out against “chain immigration,” and how he hoped to “control” it. He did try to pass a bill where he limited family immigration last June, but was unsuccessful. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t have any public support. Yet, this new rule achieves everything that was denied on June of 2018. I find it extremely interesting that this new rule promotes the same ideologies the current administration has had, but without having it go through legislation.
Another thing that this new rule can cause is the reduction of voters. A lot of the times, Legal Permanent Residents take the leap to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen if they have a desire to sponsor a family member. If Legal Permanent Residents feel that they can’t help their family members emigrate to the United States, then they may choose not to apply for citizenship, hindering their ability to vote. This can be detrimental to the political growth of the United States. The truth is that we need more voters to try to stand up to any injustice at hand.
Due to this and many other things found, this new “public charge” rule is facing legal challenges. Actually, it’s been facing legal backlash since it was released back in August. Some states have even started filing injunctions against the new “public charge” rule. So, stay on the lookout to see if your state will fight against the new rule. Also, please make sure to vote on this if you are given the opportunity.
As for now, it is best for anyone on the fence about moving forward with their immigration process to get started as soon as possible. These new “public charge” rules can potentially make things more difficult. Nevertheless, each case is different, so consulting your immigration lawyer before doing anything is highly advisable. The Inadmissibility on Public Charge Ground becomes effective on October 15th, 2019.