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Divisive Public Charge Rule Subject to Review by Court and Federal Agencies

The last month has witnessed a double assault on actions surrounding public charge inadmissibility.

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case opposing the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule implemented in 2019 under the Trump administration. This development comes after the Supreme Court set aside numerous attempts by lower courts to freeze the rule through injunctions.

This decision follows President Biden's request for actions on public charge inadmissibility to be reviewed by several federal agencies.

What does it mean to be a Public Charge?

According to 1996 regulations, an individual is deemed a public charge if the said individual is primarily dependent on government assistance, i.e. more than half of his/her income is derived from public benefits.

This definition focuses on cash benefits.

DHS's final rule regarding “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” expanded this definition by incorporating non-cash benefit programs such as Medicaid, Food Assistance and Housing Assistance.

Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule

This rule acts as a gatekeeping measure to ensure that immigrants strengthen rather than burden the U.S. economy.

Its critics have deemed it a prejudicial wealth test that hinders those in lower economic brackets from obtaining U.S. immigration benefits.

Every public benefit listed on an immigration application is counted as a negative factor weighed in the petition's adjudication.

The final rule endows USCIS officers with the discretion to reject applications based on an applicant being or likely becoming a public charge.

The Negative Impacts of the Rule

DHS's final rule has generated panic in many vulnerable immigrant communities. Immigration applicants legally able to access public benefits have elected not to access public benefits or decided to disenroll in such programs.

Such decisions are motivated by the fear that accessing any form of public benefit will cause their applications to be rejected, jeopardizing their ability to stay in the U.S. with their families.

As a result, countless vulnerable people are being denied access to the help they need.

President Biden Takes Action

On February 2, 2021 President Biden issued an Executive Order 14012 titled “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans”.

The order mandated the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of other relevant federal agencies to review "all agency actions related to the implementation of the public charge ground of inadmissibility" and consider "the effects and implications of public charge policies".

This review is to be guided by the President's position to ensure that "our laws and policies encourage full participation by immigrants, including refugees, in our civic life; that immigration processes and other benefits are delivered effectively and efficiently; and that the federal government eliminates sources of fear and other barriers that prevent immigrants from accessing government services available to them."

In the next couple of months, these federal agencies will deliver reviews that:

  • Consider and evaluate the current effects of these agency actions and the implications of their continued implementation;

  • Identify appropriate agency actions to address concerns about the current public charge policies' impact on the integrity of the nation's immigration system and public health; and

  • Recommend steps that relevant agencies should take to clearly communicate current public charge policies and proposed changes to reduce fear and confusion among impacted communities.

Connect with us to keep abreast of the developments in federal regulations on public charge inadmissibility.

We assist countless foreign nationals and we will be happy to personally assist you with your application as well. Send us an E-mail or call us at (888)354-6257. For reasons on why you should consult an immigration attorney whenever you have an immigration issue, see our page titled: Reasons Why it is Vital to Use an Immigration Lawyer.



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