Monday, August 12, 2019

Public charge rule finalized, soon to take effect

The Trump administration announced the final version of a regulation that would make it easier for the government to reject green cards  to immigrants who are poor. Most immigrants are already ineligible for the major aid programs until they qualify for green cards. However, the new rule expands the definition of a "public charge" from the Immigration Act of 1882 to disqualify immigrants from green cards who use food stamps, welfare, and emergency health care benefits to which they are legally eligible, on the theory that they will become dependent on the government. The rule will be published on Wednesday and is set to take effect within 60-days.

According to the USCIS, the rule will encourage "self-reliance and self-sufficiency for those seeking to come to or stay in the United States." Acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli, when asked during a White House briefing about whether the rule is unfairly targeting low-income immigrants, Cuccinelli said: "We certainly expect people of any income to be able to stand on their own two feet, so if people are not able to be self-sufficient, than this negative factor is going to bear very heavily against them in a decision about whether they'll be able to become a legal permanent resident. "
Immigrant advocates denounced the final rule, which they say could hurt millions of immigrants already living in the U.S. as well as their citizen children. Public health and social service providers say the proposal of the rule, even before taking effect, has already led to a chilling effect among immigrants who are afraid to get government aid for themselves and their U.S. citizen children for fear it could be held against them later on. Immigration lawyers say the rule could also sharply curtail legal immigration, especially when coupled with tough new State Department standards that take the likelihood of an immigrant's use of public benefits into account when granting visas.
Legal challenges to the public charge are likely. A group of 17 state attorneys general sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget last month, arguing that DHS had "entirely failed to estimate the true costs" of the regulation. The National Immigration Law Center has said it will sue. A preliminary version of the rule generated 260,000 comments, with many expressing criticism for penalizing immigrants for using public benefits they are legally entitled to receive.

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