President Donald Trump’s administration has announced a rule that would allow the US to reject visas and permanent residency for people dependent on the government to meet their basic needs, and the rule would impact hundreds of thousands of South Asians in California alone.
The regulation to reduce the number of legal immigrants who are allowed to enter and reside in the country by facilitating the rejection of applications for green cards and residence permits was announced Monday, Aug. 12.
The term “public charge” to mean an individual who receives one or more designated public benefit for more than 12 months and in the aggregate, within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months), according to a press release. The rule further defines the term “public benefit” to include any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs.
Riti Shimkhada, analyst at UCLA Center for Health Policy and Research told indica through an email, “The fact is only that there are a large number of South Asians that apply for entry into the U.S. and a large number who apply for a green card each year — all of these applicants will be affected by the public charge determination/test.”
“But we don’t know how many will actually fail to be admitted or get their green cards because they are determined to be inadmissible,” she said. A person holding a permanent resident card or some types of visas obtained through legal means would be affected if they cannot financially support themselves without public assistance.
In 2017, of the 1,127,167 applicants obtaining LPR status (green card) 60,394 were from India, 17,408 from Pakistan, 14,693 from Bangladesh, 11,610 from Nepal, and 1,627 from Sri Lanka (https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics/yearbook/2017).
It would also determine the granting of a legal visa by changing the criteria of the Department of Homeland Security when interpreting whether a foreigner “is likely to become a public charge at any time.”
Shimkhada stated, “With analyzed proposed changes in “public charge” rules, we estimated projected lost federal support for Medi-Cal at $1.19 billion and CalFresh at $488 million, due to this possible “chilling effect”. ”
The public charge rule also identifies a number of other factors to be weighed when evaluating green cards and adjustment of status applications including English proficiency, income level and health conditions via a “totality of circumstances” determination.
Refugees and asylees, among others, are exempted from the rule. As recently arrived immigrants to the U.S. and new LPR/green card holders are more likely to come from Asia, this rule change will impact this group the most.
UCLA in a statement told indica that with the new rule in place, immigration officials will now consider prior use of previously excluded public programs, including non-emergency Medicaid for non-pregnant adults, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and several housing programs, when making the public charge determination at the time of an individual’s request for adjustment of status (note, immigrants must have a green card for at least 5 years to be eligible for public programs, so there are likely few who would be identified as inaccessible due to prior use of public benefits).
“There are reports and considerable concern around immigrants disenrolling from public benefits due to fear and misinformation about the rule (“chilling effect”),” the statement said. (link: http://healthpolicy.ucla.edu/publications/Documents/PDF/2018/publiccharge-factsheet-dec2018.pdf),
Interim director of Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, however, has defended the new rule.
“Our rule generally prevents aliens who are likely to become a public charge from coming to the United States or remaining here and getting a green card,” he said at a press conference at the White House. “Public charge is now defined in a way that ensures the law is meaningfully enforced and that those who are subject to it are self-sufficient.”
US authorities would be able to determine if an immigrant has become a public charge for the administration, that is a person who depends mainly on public funds to subsist, and then cancel their legal immigration status.
“Through the public charge rule, President Trump’s administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility,” Cuccinelli said. “Ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America.”
He explained that under this new rule, a legal immigrant will be defined as a public charge if they receive public benefits for more than 12 months in a 36-month period.
“Under the rule a public charge is now defined as an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period. For instance, receipt of two different benefits in one month counts as two months,” he said.
Public benefits include food assistance, housing assistance vouchers and programs that subsidize the cost of medicines.
Cuccinelli said that the measure would not affect refugees, asylum seekers, victims of domestic violence and trafficked people living in the US.
The regulation will take effect from Oct. 15, according to the government.
It is expected that the new rule will face legal challenges in the coming days, so its final implementation could be delayed several months or even never occur.
Immigrant advocacy groups have argued that it would discriminate against immigrants from poorer countries, keep families apart and encourage legal residents to give up public assistance they might need to survive.
Organizations also said that the rules would penalize immigrants with work visas who need public assistance on a temporary basis.
Reacting to Trump’s Public Charge initiative, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said the new public charge rule targets vulnerable immigrant families.
“This is a reckless policy that targets the health and well-being of immigrant families and communities of color, with widespread implications for our state’s health care, housing and affordability,” Newsome said through a press release. “We are actively reviewing the details to determine next steps, but for now, I remind immigrant families to empower themselves with qualified legal advice to understand whether the rule could affect them,”