On September 22nd, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a proposed rule change that would limit access to green cards for immigrants who use basic public benefits. According to reporting from National Public Radio (NPR), the rule change would dramatically expand the federal government’s authority to deny green cards to immigrants if they or their family members benefit from a public program.
Our Los Angeles immigration lawyers discussed the Trump Administration’s proposal to punish immigrants for using basic social services last month. At that time, the final version of the proposed rule had not yet been released to the public. Now that it has been released, it is clear that this proposal is as bad as was feared.
Redefining a Public Charge: Cash Aid vs. Non Cash Aid
Immigrants who are considered likely to be a ‘public charge’ are already ineligible for green cards. A public charge is defined as someone who is likely to depend primarily on the government for financial assistance. The issue here is that the Trump Administration is seeking to drastically broaden the definition of the term ‘public charge’.
Under current rules, the term public charge refers to direct cash assistance. Under the proposed rule change, the term public charge would also apply to many different forms of non-cash assistance. Most importantly, it would apply to many health benefits programs. From a practical perspective, this is a huge expansion of the meaning of the term.
According to data obtained by NPR, approximately 3.5 percent of people receive cash assistance whereas nearly 25 percent of people receive some form of non-cash assistance (Medicaid, housing benefits, etc). In other words, this rule change would likely increase the number of immigrants ineligible for a green card by 800 percent.
Immigrants are No More Likely to Use Public Benefits
The Trump Administration and other anti-immigrant politicians are attempting to justify this new policy on the grounds that they are protecting taxpayers. They paint a false picture of immigrants coming to the United States and relying heavily on public benefits. The reality is far different. The Department of Homeland Security even admits this deep in its own 222-page proposed rule change. According to the draft copy obtained by The Washington Post, immigrant and immigrant families use public benefits at nearly an identical rate as do native born residents.
Understanding the Process: 60-Day Review Period
Once this rule is officially published in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen in the coming weeks, the public will have 60 days to make comments. It is important that our voices are heard. With the 2018 midterm elections approaching, it is crucial that allies and advocates stand up for the rights of immigrants and immigrant communities.
We Advocate for Immigrants in Southern California
At the Law Office of Joshua L. Goldstein, PC, we are proud to support immigrants and their families. We handle the full range of immigration cases. If you or your loved one needs legal guidance, please do not hesitate to call us today at (213) 262-2000 to schedule a fully confidential consultation with an experienced Los Angeles immigration attorney.