Tag Archives: #benefits

New White House Could Remove Public Charge Rule

The incoming Biden-Harris administration has an opportunity to immediately revoke implementation of the public charge rule, easing anxiety for millions of immigrants who have denied themselves federal benefits over the past three years for fear of losing their ability to upgrade their immigration status.

“Public charge will be a front-burner issue for the new administration because it is so entwined with our current public health crisis and connected to the pandemic,” said Daniel Sharp, chief of the Office of Immigrant Affairs in Los Angeles County’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. “We do expect the new administration to prioritize the issue,” he said in an interview with EMS, noting that President-elect Joe Biden had committed to ending the rule while campaigning for office.

If Democrats take back the Senate with the Jan. 5 Georgia run-off election, the incoming Congress has an opportunity to permanently remove public charge from the immigration code, said Sharp. He noted that if it is not permanently removed, a future administration could once again implement the rule, which has had an enormously chilling impact on immigrants even before it was formally rolled out by the outgoing Trump administration.

“It is going to take a multi-year effort to undo the harm that this rule change has set in,” he said.

The public charge rule, which was introduced with the Immigration Act of 1882, is a means test used to determine ineligibility for immigration or residency status. The seldom-used rule can be used by consulates abroad to determine whether an applicant could ever become completely dependent on public benefits; and by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to deny a green card to those unable to essentially pass a wealth test. Factors such as age, the ability to speak English, and future earning capabilities are used as determinants of whether or not to grant a visa or green card.

USCIS can deny a green card to immigrants who have ever used Supplemental Security Income; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; general assistance cash benefits (welfare); Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps); Section 8 Housing or Rental Assistance; or federally funded Medicaid.

Public charge is not invoked during the naturalization process.

Critics of the rule have called it a “cruel wealth test,” used to keep poor immigrants out of the U.S. In the early 1900s, the rule was frequently invoked to bar immigrants from the developing world for permanent residency in the U.S. In more recent years, the rule has been less frequently invoked: prior to 2019, less than one percent of all immigration cases were denied based on the public charge rule.

Currently, more than 10.3 million immigrants use some form of federal benefits.

Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, noted that when President Donald Trump hinted in 2017 that he was going to implement the little-used rule, “the news spread like wildfire in the immigrant community.”

Even before the rule was finalized in August 2019, immigrants began denying themselves federal benefits, including school lunch programs, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which are not considered in public charge determinations; immigrants nonetheless dis-enrolled their children from the benefits, fearing possible impact to their immigration status.

Kulkarni referred to data from Health Affairs which reported that 260,000 immigrant children had been dis-enrolled by their families from receiving Medicaid since 2018 and 70,000 children were no longer enrolled in SNAP.

A paper published by the Journal of Pediatrics in December noted the severe impact of the public charge rule on children. “By tying the use of vital public health programs to immigration and residency status, the Administration is forcing a choice between seeking critical services or securing status in the United Status,” said the authors of the study: Nina Patel, Swapna Reddy, and Natalia Wilson of Arizona State University. They described the rule as impacting the most vulnerable children in the nation.

“Current anti-immigrant sentiment, rhetoric, and policy changes, such as the public charge rule, have resulted in a culture of fear, misinformation, distrust, and isolation, all of which have health implications,” noted Patel, Reddy, and Wilson.

Despite the current uncertain future of the rule, Kulkarni encouraged immigrants to avail of federal benefits, especially during the pandemic. “It is so important for all of us to stay as safe and as healthy as possible at this time, when we are living under the greatest public health crisis of our lifetime.”

“People should not go without meals, COVID-testing and care, and housing benefits,” she said, noting that the Biden Administration is likely to take a “180-degree turn” to remove the rule.

Sharp noted that immigrants in California also began dis-enrolling from Medical, a state-funded program, for fear of losing their immigration status. “People were confused,” he said, adding also that students dropped their applications for federal scholarship programs, which are not considered in public charge determinations. Benefits were also dropped by U.S. citizen children living in mixed-status families with undocumented parents or siblings.

At the start of the pandemic, Sharp’s office began receiving a record number of calls from immigrants who were concerned about accessing benefits. “The people most impacted by the pandemic were not applying for public benefits,” he said.

Sharp characterized it as a “double whammy.” Undocumented people, despite being gainfully employed with deductions taken out of their paychecks, did not qualify for unemployment insurance benefits, and they were not accessing benefits for which they were qualified to receive, he said.

The public charge rule is written so as not to be invoked during a national crisis, but immigrants have little understanding about the nuances of the rule, said Sharp. National election results, which brought Biden to office, held out a glimmer of hope for immigrants “that better times are ahead in the near future,” he said, but added: “We have been down this road before. There have been so many moments of on again, off again in this tennis match of implementation.”

After the final rule was rolled out in August 2019, it was immediately blocked by several lower courts.

On Jan. 27, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the administration’s Public Charge: New Ethical Considerations for Adjustment Cases and allowed public charge to be implemented nationwide beginning Feb. 24, just as the COVID pandemic began to take force in the U.S.

On Nov. 2, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked public charge in the Cook County v. Wolf case. Amy Coney Barrett, now a Supreme Court Justice, wrote the dissenting opinion, siding with the Trump Administration’s theory that immigrants must be able to prove self-sufficiency. That case will now be heard by a full panel in the 7th Circuit. Meanwhile, immigrants in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin must continue to file the I-944 form, a declaration of self-sufficiency, with their adjustment of status applications.

On Dec. 2, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in the City and County of San Francisco v. USCIS case, blocked the rule from being implemented in 15 states, including California.

Kulkarni said it is highly unlikely that the incoming administration will appeal the Ninth Circuit ruling. Consulates abroad have been blocked from implementing the public charge rule since July.


SUNITA SOHRABJI is the EMS Contributing Editor.

The original article can be found here.

Does Prop 22 Do Justice for the Gig Workers?

Forum – A column where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

Does Prop 22 Do Justice to the Gig Economy? No!

In 1959, despite graduating at top of her law class at Columbia, Ruth Bader Ginsberg had a hard time finding jobs because she was a mother. She, later on, went on to work on gender equality laws over the next decades. As a result, today any reference to an employee’s sex in the workplace decisions irrespective of their capabilities will land employers in a world of legal trouble. At its core AB5 is about economic inequality in the workplace. 

Just like gender equality laws from the 70s, AB5 can appear burdensome to employers. On the other hand, Proposition 22 at its core is about Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and other gig economy companies trying to get away with an awful business model of counting their employees as a variable cost. The ads for Prop 22 mischaracterize the drivers as only part-time workers who already have a full-time job.

Based on my personal experience on multiple Uber rides this is completely untrue. These Drivers depend on UBER for a substantial if not all of their income. And based on my conversations with them they barely earn a minimum wage and have no allowance for the depreciation of their cars. Never mind health coverage.  Uber makes it a policy to lobby and pressure lawmakers in every city to support their flawed business model.

Despite this, their stock is down 20% from IPO in May 2019 and have a 1.6B loss against revenue of just 2.6B. I imagine other rideshare companies are probably in similar shape.  Further with self-driving cars fast approaching its only a matter of time before Uber goes driverless making this move a short-term gimmick to support their flagging stock price.  A favorite argument of conservatives is why have worker regulations at all why not let everyone work for “themselves”. This is euphemistically called the right to work in many states especially the southern states.  In 2008, a detailed study of the RTW states was done by the National Education Council and the findings of the study are very damning. The RTW states have: a higher poverty rate of 14.4% versus the 12% in others, lower per capita income of 38K versus 44K, and a higher rate of uninsured people. The uninsured rate differential is probably even higher today because many of these very states rejected Obamacare Medicaid expansion.  Sustainable economic activity is created as a result of entrepreneurship coupled with good regulation. The choice should not be between no job and a bad job.  

Having said that AB5 is far from perfect. The issue with Prop 22 is that it is a proposition.  We have bi-annual elections and representative democracy – the proposition process just circumvents the legislative process.  So I recommend a no vote on 22.

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry. He enjoys following politics and economics.

**************************

Does Prop 22 Do Justice to the Gig Economy? Yes!

In these times of rampant unemployment, gig jobs at Uber, Lyft, Doordash, etc. are providing a lifeline to over a million Californians. Prop 22 will eliminate these jobs as the businesses cannot afford to treat these workers as employees and pay for benefits. Prop 22 preserves the right of these drivers to be independent contractors, something that is supported 4:1 by these drivers. The CA Chamber of Commerce and Silicon Valley Group are among others urging a Yes vote on Prop 22. Gig employment offers flexibility and freedom for workers to set their own hours and also work part-time.

Gig employment is going to be the main employment engine of the future. Governor Newsom should immediately campaign for a Yes vote on Prop 22 and ensure its passage. The livelihood of more than a million Californians depends on it. 

Please vote YES on Prop 22.

Rameysh Ramdas is a resident of the SF Bay Area and has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 


Have ideas for what our Forum columnists should debate? Send a note to editor@indiacurrents.com

Public Charge Can Affect Your Benefits

Punishing Low-Income Immigrants With The Recent Changes To Public Charge

Our federal immigration laws have long been controversial. However, within the past few years, there have been numerous contentious changes to immigration law as part of the federal administration’s clampdown on immigration. One insidious change, in particular, has been to the public charge rule.

Public charge is an immigration rule that federal authorities use to decide whether certain immigrants will be a financial burden on the government. Because of public charge, some immigrants worry that their immigration status can be negatively impacted by getting certain public benefits from the government. 

Along with the recent rule change, there has also been an unfortunate amount of misinformation and fear in the community about public charge. There has been a chilling effect with immigrant families, including those not actually subject to the public charge rule, with many choosing to disenroll or to not enroll for public benefits to avoid jeopardizing their immigration status. 

Our communities need to fight misinformation with knowledge, and fear with power. To do that, we must all remember that public charge does not apply to all immigrants and it does not apply to all public benefits. 

What Exactly Is Public Charge?

The public charge rule applies when a non-citizen seeks to enter the U.S. or to adjust to lawful permanent resident status (ie. apply for a green card). It does not apply to U.S. citizens and it does not apply to many types of immigrants. Legal permanent residents with green cards already should not be impacted by public charge unless they travel outside of the United States for six months or longer and then return.

In addition, public charge does not apply to asylees, refugees, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) applicants, people who have or are applying for U-visas as victims of crime, T-visas for human trafficking survivors, special immigrant juveniles (SIJS) and other immigrants with certain types of humanitarian immigration statuses.

The public charge test looks at a totality of the circumstances and weighs many factors to decide if an immigrant will be a public charge. This includes looking at someone’s age, health, family size, education, skills, and whether the immigrant has an affidavit of support. The receipt of certain types of public benefits by the applicant directly is only one factor in this test.

Traditionally, public benefits that count towards public charge include those that provide cash assistance, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), CalWORKs, General Assistance, and long-term institutional care at government expense.

However, under recent changes to public charge, the federal government has expanded the list of public benefits impacted for green card applications filed on or after February 24, 2020. The new rule looks at whether or not an immigrant receives one or more certain public benefits “for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months).” The rule is not retroactive, so applications filed before February 24, 2020 will be considered under the old rule that claimed only cash assistance and long-term institutional care at government expense.

In addition to cash aid and long-term institutional care at government expense, the new post-February 24, 2020 public charge rule now will also include federally funded Medi-Cal (with exceptions for state-funded Medi-Cal, emergency services, children under 21, pregnant women, new mothers and COVID-19 related care), federally-funded CalFresh, federal public housing, Section 8 vouchers and project-based Section 8. Although these public benefits programs have been added to the new public charge rule, most immigrants who face a public charge test don’t get the benefits that could be potentially problematic for public charge. Public charge also only considers whether or not the immigrant applying for a green card directly receives one of the impacted public benefits, not other family or household members.

Conversely, this also means that other public benefits and assistance programs will not have a public charge impact. This includes exceptions to Medi-Cal like emergency Medi-Cal, pregnancy Medi-Cal, state-funded Medi-Cal (like for undocumented youth 21-26), Medi-Cal for children up to age 21. This also includes other programs like California Food Assistance Program (CFAP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC),  Social Security retirement, Medicare, unemployment insurance benefits (UIB), school meal programs, earned income and child tax credits, crime victim compensation, energy assistance programs, disaster relief programs and non-cash assistance state/local programs. For COVID-19 specifically, testing, treatment, and preventative care (including a potential future vaccine) will not count towards public charge.

It’s Okay To Ask Questions and Seek Help

Public charge does not apply to all immigrants or to all public benefits. Immigrants should continue to seek the public benefits and care they need to keep themselves and their families safe during this difficult time. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic still causing havoc, receiving proper health care, including through Medi-Cal, is more important now than ever. However, everyone’s situation is different and you should speak to an attorney qualified in both immigration and public benefits law if you are concerned about a potential public charge impact for you or your family.

Together, we can fight the fear and misinformation around public charge, empower our communities, and counter the chilling effect impacting so many low-income and immigrant families.

Nghi Huynh is a staff attorney with the Asian Law Alliance, a nonprofit community law office that has served the low-income and AAPI community of Santa Clara County for over 42 years.