Public Charge Rule Another Brick in Trump’s Invisible Immigration Wall

By Belén Gómez, Guest Columnist

A new “public charge” rule arriving next month will dramatically expand the number of immigrants that the Department of Homeland Security could deem ineligible for green cards and admission to the United States on account of, among other thing, income level and prior use of certain public benefits. Implementation of this rule, set for October 15, 2019, will lead to the separation of families and a systematic erosion of our nation’s most championed values, beginning with those inscribed on the base of Lady Liberty. Without the courts saving us from the Trump Administration’s new benchmark for whether intending immigrants are self-sufficient, the U.S. will support clear favoritism for privileged, and English-speaking people from other countries.

These may seem like outlandish claims to some, and look, perhaps if I didn’t see folks that would be affected on a daily basis as an immigration attorney, perhaps I wouldn’t understand the effects, either. But let me explain why this rule change is just another “invisible wall” from lawful immigration.

There are two main standards laid out in the more than 800-page rule change that the government will be using to determine whether someone is likely to be a “public charge.” One is, the “threshold standard” that assesses whether someone will be “primarily dependent” based on cash public benefits or long-term institutionalization at the government’s expense. Generally, receiving benefits for 9 to 12 months out of a 36-month period will automatically trigger the public charge.

This rule is based on the premise that immigrants come to leach off of the system, because the scapegoating of immigrants has been politically advantageous in the past. However, those without lawful immigration status don’t even qualify for most public benefits–no matter their need. And immigrants are expected to pay taxes for services they don’t qualify for.

The only exceptions the public charge rule gives are for a person that may receive aid and care for a disabled, ill, or elderly person at home, spouses or children of military members (enlisted, active, or reserves), certain victims of crimes, children under 21, and women who receive aid while pregnant. If a person married to a U.S. citizen veteran were somehow able to receive 9 months of non-emergency Medicaid or even any amount in subsidies to purchase their own insurance under Covered California, they would automatically be considered a “public charge” since their spouse isn’t enlisted, active or in the reserves.

But the real danger of this rule change comes in the second standard of review known as “the totality of the circumstances.” Factors that can be considered under this test are an applicant’s age, health, education and skills, English fluency, employment history, credit score, taxes, assets, financial means to pay for medical costs, and family status–we’re talking whether family members have or are receiving public benefits. Immigration attorneys have already seen the arbitrary ways this standard is applied for applicants trying to enter the country from abroad.

This rule is already having a chilling effect on families throughout the country who are choosing to forgo essential services to avoid imperiling their immigration status. It is horrifying to think that a parent may cancel needed aid for their U.S. citizen child out of fear of never having the possibility of gaining lawful status or of being separated from their U.S. citizen child.

Public charge is yet another brick in the Trump administration’s “invisible wall,” a far-reaching set of policies and practices restricting legal immigration to and in the U.S. It will needlessly prevent vast numbers of hardworking, law-abiding individuals in the U.S. from obtaining green cards.

Belén Gómez is an immigration attorney based in Fullerton. 

4 Replies to “Public Charge Rule Another Brick in Trump’s Invisible Immigration Wall”

  1. I want to say that if you will apply new public charge rule to curent green card backlog about 4 million , who are waiting for immigrant visa in line , this will be injustice,unfair,because their petitions filled already in curent system before 15 October 2019,there in backlog peoples are waiting for their priority date to become current to get immigrant visa for more than 2 decades from Mexico,philipines,and others countries,if you will enact new public rule at curent 4 million green card backlog with approved immigrant visa petition,this will be injustice with backlog,because they are looking American dream for decades to immigrate United States,to reunite with their relatives in usa.they follow the rules of law,and obeying the law.

  2. Dear USCIS I would like to tell you that there about 4.2 million green card backlog with approved I-130 petitions are waiting in line to become immigrant visa number, beneficiaries are waiting in line for more than 2 decades from Mexico,China,phillipines,they wasted their half life about 25 to 30 years in waiting from Mexico,philipines,China,under F3,F4 visa catagory to immigrate to usa,they are looking American dream,they are following the rules of law,and obeying,legal immigrants also can’t get visitor visa if their already immigrant petition filled at USCIS,this will be big injustice,unfair with green card backlog,you should not to apply,enact new public charge rule at curent green card backlog 4.2 million peoples,backlog should be immigrate through curent should enact new public charge rule at new immigrant visa petitions i-130 after 15 October 2019
    should not enact or apply to already approved or pending petitions i-130 in line before 15 October 2019,you should stop illegal immigration, illegal live in usa for decades,you don’t take up action against illegal,but you are going to become strict policy for legal immigrants which are obbey rule of law,and follow rule of law and waiting for decades from abroad to immigrate to usa

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