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COVID-19 Treatment Will NOT Be Used Against Immigrants in a Public Charge Test, But Fear Over Rule Remains

In August of 2019, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the Trump Administration’s radical expansion of the public charge rule. The regulatory change makes it more difficult for lower income and medically vulnerable immigrants and immigrant families to get green cards. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic hits the country, there are serious concerns that fear and confusion over the public charge rule is preventing immigrants from accessing COVID-19-related care. While COVID-19 care is NOT a factor in a public charge test, fear and confusion remain. According to a report from NBC News, authors of a new study are sounding the alarm. 

What is the Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule?

The concept of a ‘public charge’ has long been a part of American immigration law. Indeed, the term first appeared in the Immigration Act of 1882. A person deemed as a ‘public charge’ is considered to be likely to rely primarily on public benefits for economic support; as such, they can be deemed inadmissible and, thus, ineligible for a green card. 

Since taking office, the Trump Administration has dramatically expanded the meaning of the term ‘public charge’. For more than a century, the rule had been applied very narrowly. Perhaps most alarmingly, under the Trump Administration’s rule, authorities can consider an applicant’s health status in determining their eligibility for admission. 

Urban Institute Study: Public Charge Creates a Chilling Effect

On May 18th, the Urban Institute published a new study on the Trump Administration’s expansion of the public charge rule. The key finding was that the proposed rule change created a toxic, chilling effect that dissuaded immigrant families from accessing basic social services and public benefits—including food assistance, educational programs, and health care. This is not the first study to find such effects. Last fall, public policy experts noted that the public charge rule was likely a key factor contributing to a rise in the number of immigrant children without health insurance.   

Confusion and Fear May Prompt Immigrants to Avoid Coronavirus Care

As the study’s authors noted, the chilling effect is “alarming in the unprecedented context of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Unfortunately, there is much confusion over what does and does not make someone a public charge. We want to make it very clear that seeking COVID-19-related care will not make you or your loved ones a public charge. As explained by Protect Immigrant Families, the USCIS has clarified that “testing, prevention, or treatment for COVID-19 will NOT be used against immigrants in a public charge test.” While fear is entirely understandable, immigrants should seek professional care for coronavirus-related conditions. 

Consult With Our Los Angeles, CA Immigration Attorneys Today

At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we are committed to providing reliable, responsive representation to clients. With experience across the full range of immigration cases, our lawyers are here to help you understand your rights and find a solution. For a completely confidential immigration consultation, please call us now. We represent clients in Los Angeles and throughout the entire region.