Immigrants in Vermont Should File Soon to Avoid Potential Changes
In August, the Trump Administration announced that new regulations were taking effect on October 15 that would dramatically change the way that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determined whether an alien was likely to be a “public charge.” On October 11, 2019, three federal courts enjoined the implementation of these regulations. However, through a decision issued on February 21, 2020, the United States Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, lifted these injunctions allowing the regulations to go into effect on February 24.
Under United States immigration laws, an alien is deemed a public charge if they have accepted certain means-tested public benefits, such as Welfare. If they have been a public charge or are likely to become one in the future, aliens who apply for green cards can be denied.
That principle has been embodied in our immigration laws for decades. Typically, one could show that they would not likely be a public charge by obtaining an “Affidavit of Support” from the sponsoring relative in family-based immigration cases. As long as that relative had an income of at least 125% of the federal poverty level for his or her household size, the public charge test was satisfied.
What is the New Public Charge Rule?
The new regulations would expand the list of means-tested public benefits that would disqualify an alien from obtaining a green card to include health benefits obtained through Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). In addition, regulations add scrutiny of other factors thought to be predictors of becoming a public charge, such as:
- Chronic health conditions and disabilities
- Educational attainment (or lack thereof)
- Employment history (or lack thereof)
- Credit history (or lack thereof)
Many U.S. citizens could not pass this Public Charge test if they were required to do so. The new regulations render the Affidavit of Support just one piece of evidence that an immigration officer could consider in looking at the “totality of the circumstances” surrounding the likelihood of a given immigrant becoming a public charge. Other factors in that testing include the items listed above.
These discriminatory effects and the unfettered discretion given to immigration officers under the proposed public charge rules led several States and immigrants’ rights groups to sue to block the implementation of the new regulations. On October 11, Federal Courts in New York, California and Washington issued injunctions to stop the regulations from taking effect. That is similar to what happened when the Trump Administration announced its Travel Ban in 2017. However, after two rounds of litigation, a modified Travel Ban was upheld by the courts. Something similar is likely to happen with regard to the public charge rules.
Contact MSK Attorneys online or call us at 1-802-861-7000 for assistance in Vermont immigration cases.