Under new immigration rules, needing public assistance now or in the years to come could cause your family to be denied citizenship in the U.S.
Public assistance programs have long been a hotly contested issue. They were designed to ensure people living in the U.S. have a roof over their head, food on the table, medical care, and a basic standard of living. Concerns over people abusing the system caused lawmakers to put tight restrictions on who is entitled to them, generally excluding undocumented immigrants. These laws have tightened under the current administration. Our Nashville immigration attorneys explain how under the new “public charge” rule interpretation, accepting public benefits now or potentially needing them in the future could jeopardize your rights to permanent residency or green card status.
Concerns Over Public Benefits Nothing New
In late January 2020, a Supreme Court decision cleared the way for a Trump administration interpretation that could impact immigrants and their families as they seek to establish themselves in the United States. The Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds rule went into effect on February 24, 2020. Crafted under the Trump administration, it targets immigrants who may need certain public assistance programs to provide for themselves and their families, either now or in the years to come. This deems them a public charge and they can be denied residency status. It could also prevent their family members from even entering the country.
While the public charge rule itself is new, it is based on other laws designed to cut public assistance. It builds on welfare reforms passed in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton. Under his Personal Responsibility And Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, the number of people entitled to benefits was dramatically reduced while many non-citizens were excluded entirely. This new rule combined with long-standing laws regarding immigration and public benefits hurts families, robbing them of protections against hard times.
Is Your Family Subject to the ‘Public Charge’ Rule?
The new public charge rule is viewed by many as discriminatory and anti-immigration. It not only punishes immigrants for seeking help in establishing themselves in a new country, but it also casts judgment on whether they or others in their family are likely to require these benefits in the future. Many benefits fall within the “public charge” interpretation — though fortunately some categories of noncash assistance are excluded from the public charge restriction. It’s important to consult an attorney if a person who is not a U.S. citizen or exempt from the public charge ground seeks any kind of public benefits.
In addition to the more expansive rules the Trump administration has put forward, a new, detailed, lengthy form, Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, is now required with most adjustment of status (Form I-485) cases. An attorney can help with collecting the newly required personal information about the immigrant’s family assets, liabilities, and skills, and completing required paperwork.
The Supreme Court’s decision gives the approval for the government to consider other factors as well beyond public benefits, in determining whether a person is a public charge, including:
- The age of the immigrant’s family members and their general health;
- Any assets or other resources the family possesses;
- Their current income and financial status, including credit score (if available);
- Their tax history;
- Their language abilities; and
- Their education level and any technical skill they possess.
Under the new rule that went into effect in February 2020, the government will balance these factors to determine whether, on balance, the person is likely to become a “public charge” or public debt responsibility.
Fortunately, some categories of immigrants are excluded from the public charge inadmissibility ground. Others have to provide less evidence. Our immigration attorneys in Nashville work with clients to present the strongest case possible that immigrants falling under the new rule will not be a concern for “public charge” grounds.
Reach Out to Our Nashville Immigration Attorneys
If you have concerns about whether benefits you receive or your family’s financial status could jeopardize your family and your rights to permanent residency or other immigration benefits, reach out to the Ozment Law, PLC. Call or contact our Nashville immigration attorneys online to schedule a confidential consultation today.