New Public Charge Rule would be Affecting Many Low-Income, South-Asian Families

Ritu Jha-

Community activist Rama Dawar, of Fresno California, alleges that misuse of social services benefits by many green card holders has led to the closure of the benefits that would impact low-income families and even asylum seekers.

People who once received asylum, his spouse and children would be impacted believes Dawar. Asylum seekers are not impacted directly, but their families, children, parents, and in-laws might be.

“People on asylum first invite their spouses and then apply for benefits. There is a misconception that if I have a child born in the U.S. he would be a citizen of the united states and the government will let me stay,” Dawar who sounded a little annoyed with the growing homeless population in the US told indica, “This is another reason for homelessness.”

However, he also said that many Indians are withdrawing the social benefit application fearing they would be losing their Green Card.

“It will impact everyone who is not a US citizen and many have stopped applying for food stamps,” Dawar said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced early this month that the long-standing law will better ensure that aliens seeking to enter and remain in the United States, either temporarily or permanently, are self-sufficient and rely on their own capabilities and the resources of family members, sponsors, and private organizations rather than on public resources.

This final rule supersedes the 1999 Interim Field Guidance on Deportability and Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds and goes into effect at midnight Eastern Standard Time on Oct. 15, 2019.

USCIS will apply the public charge inadmissibility final rule only to applications and petitions postmarked (or, if applicable, submitted electronically) on or after the effective date. Applications and petitions already pending with USCIS on the effective date of the rule (postmarked and accepted by USCIS) will be adjudicated based on the 1999 Interim Guidance.

AJ Scheitler, director of stakeholder relations, and coordinator of the National Network of State and Local Health Surveys told indica that 17 percent of all non-citizen South Asians are low-income (under 200 percent of the federal poverty level) and may need government support for food, health care, and housing at some point as they settle their families in the US.

“With over 1 million South Asians in California, this proposed rule could affect hundreds of thousands in the South Asian community,” Scheitler said.

Muzaffar Chishti, Director of the Migration Policy Institutes’ office at New York University School of Law told indica, that not admitting people who are likely to become a public charge has been part of the US law since 1882. But the new rule issued last week expands the test to determine who is likely to use public benefit in the United States in the future, thus likely to become a public charge.

Immigration or consular officers are given significant discretion to determine who is likely to use public benefits in the United States after they get a green card. The factors they are allowed to use are: age, education, health, income, and resources. The idea is to look at demographics and social-economic characteristics that are seen as signs of someone likely to use public benefits in the future.

“The disproportionate effect of this rule is going to be on women, children, and the elderly, especially from low-income families,” said Professor Chishti.

In the context of Indian immigration, the impact will fundamentally be in respect to family-based immigration, especially with regards to the parents of US citizens, and particularly those from low-income families.

The acting USCIS director, Ken Cuccinelli said on NPR that the Statue of Liberty plaque should be changed to read “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge.”

Amar Shergill, attorney and the first South Asian-American to lead the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, told indica, “Almost every great American immigrant success story starts with, ‘I came to the US with just a few dollars in my pocket.’”

“We are moved by those stories because they display an amazing drive to succeed,” Shergill said and added that the Trump and GOP policy is driven by bigotry against those same immigrants. Even those immigrants that start off needing some help will ultimately pay far more back into society than they took. This new discriminatory policy would have rejected some of our greatest modern entrepreneurs, like the creator of WhatsApp.”

‘’After reading the proposed language of the new policy and attending some info sessions, I don’t think the new Public Charge Law would affect the Sikh/ Indian community out of proportion, but it is not good for all Americans. It will hurt entire households including children. It is our responsibility to resist the change for future generations of new Americans,” said Sarabjit Kaur Cheema, School trustee at the New Haven Unified School District in Union City, California.

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