The Supreme Court decision last month that gave the Trump administration the green light to go forward with expanding the Public Charge immigration rule is bringing yet another obstacle for those seeking lawful permanent residency (a green card) or a visa to apply to enter the United States.
Trump has pushed to deter immigration on a variety of fronts and the latest action to refuse green cards or visas for low income immigrants who utilize public assistance for housing, nutrition or healthcare and would also consider their personal circumstances as criteria is already causing people to become even more reluctant to seek needed social services.
But it’s important to note that not all immigrants will be impacted by the expanded rules. The latest Public Charge rule will apply only to those who’ve filed applications for a green card, a visa or a petition to change their status postmarked (or submitted electronically) on or after Feb. 24, 2020. Those who’ve applied prior will be considered under the previous, less strident public charge rules.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, a press briefing was held by Ethnic Media Services that organized a panel of immigrant rights advocates on this issue.
Those on the panel clarified that while, those who already have green cards are exempt from the latest Public Charge rule, they should be aware that if they leave the United States for longer than 180 days, they could then be subjected to increased scrutiny.
The panelists also recommended that those who are planning to apply for a green card, or a visa to enter the United States or to change their status, doing so promptly ahead of the Feb. 24 date is advisable, and to also seek reputable advice.
“There is a separate Public Charge test for those who are attempting to get visas to come into the country,” said attorney Alvaro Huerta with the National Immigration Law Center. “That’s a different process that is handled by the department of state, so anyone who is either trying to get a green card or a lawful permanent residency, or trying to enter the country on a visa should get an assessment by an immigration attorney, or a local community organization about how the public charge rule may affect them.
“Those who are applying to be citizens, those who already have lawful permanent residency and are trying to become citizens, don’t have to worry about the Public Charge test unless they plan to leave the country for longer than six months. If you are planning to leave the country for longer than six months, you should definitely get an assessment by an immigration attorney about what that could mean for you,” Huerta said.
Public Charge rules have existed in the United States for the last 100 years. But what has changed, under the Trump administration’s relentless push, is its expansion. Previously, non-cash social assistance programs, including Medicaid, were not considered a “Public Charge.”
For those applying after Feb. 24, all government social services that are utilized are considered in the decision-making and, in addition, under the latest Public Charge rule your personal information including your age, income, credit score, language skills, education and health condition could be a consideration when determining whether the government considers you a Public Charge risk for using government public programs in the future.
Those who use Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), HUD public housing and “Section 8” housing benefits and other government assistance, and delay filing immigration applications after Feb. 24, could be viewed as a “Public Charge,” and could face greater scrutiny in approving their applications.
Since the Supreme Court ruling, community health clinics and other agencies have reported their clients becoming confused and more fearful of utilizing services, and have asked if they could or should dis-enroll from health care programs.
One Valley health administrator told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that his clinic has reassured clients that they are safe and ICE would not enter their facility. But at the same time, he said the impact of the new policy has yet to be realized.
“This is a time of uncertainty and it’s critical that people have the information they need so that they can utilize health and social services if they need them,” said panelist Mayra Alvarez, of the Children’s Partnership.
“The fear purposefully generated by this administration is already causing many legal immigrants to dis-enroll themselves and their children from receiving benefits. Benefits they need to live healthy, succeed in school, and thrive,” Alvarez said. “Families are worried whether the choice will be between keeping their family together, or taking their child to the doctor or pick up food.”
“It’s also important to note that in the regulation, Medicaid for children under 21, pregnant women, new mothers, and emergency services, will not be considered in Public Charge determination. In addition, other programs like important school lunch programs and earned income tax breaks are safe to use if a family is eligible,” she concluded.
“Although this news is disheartening for countless immigrants, people should understand that the lawsuit to stop this rule is not over just because the Supreme Court has allowed the public charge rule to go into effect for the time being,” said Huerta.
“Litigation will continue in California, New York, Illinois, Maryland and other places. There are multiple cases litigating trying to stop this rule, and these cases aren’t going away just because of what the Supreme Court did.”
“We can all make our voices heard by contacting local state and federal officials who are in charge of creating policies that affect us all,” added Alvarez.
“Our goal is to help calm fears,” said Rep. Judy Chu (27th District), who said she was committed to fighting back and has introduced legislation in Congress, with 118 co-sponsors, to deny funding for implementation of the rule.
“It’s not only discriminatory, it goes against what we know. Immigrants actually use fewer public benefits than native-born individuals. What’s more, withholding legal benefits that immigrants have qualified and paid for just hurts the economy by hurting families who would not use health services and get the food they need.”
Chu went on to say, “This rule would also make it more difficult to be reunited with loved ones in the united states, which actually works against the rule’s purpose. The fact is immigrants are actually less likely to use public benefits because they receive help from families.
“Whether it’s free child care or startup loans from relatives when banks refused, allowing immigrant families to stay together has been the key to their success here. But by keeping families apart, Trump is making it harder for immigrants to succeed. And, we want to avoid more families feeling like they have to go hungry or go without seeing a doctor just to avoid punishment from Trump.”
Fact sheets with this information are available on the Protecting Immigrant Families website at www.protectingimmigrantfamilies.org