Tag Archives: Public Charge

Trump’s War On Immigrants

The Trump presidency has made more than 400 changes to US immigration policy since it took office, waging what immigration advocates are calling ‘Trump’s war on immigrants.’

The Trump administration went on the offensive in January 2017, accelerating changes to immigration policy in a series of rapidfire executive actions. A report released by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) in July catalogs more than 400 revisions which have swiftly and ‘dramatically reshaped the U.S. immigration system’ in the last four years.

The sweeping changes impact “everything from border and interior enforcement, to refugee resettlement and the asylum system, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the immigration courts, and vetting and visa processes,” states the report, and places tough restrictions on potential tourists, foreign workers and international students.

Sarah Pierce, Migration Policy Institute

“Many of the changes reflect the administrations’ really strong knowledge of immigration law,” confirmed Sarah Pierce, a policy expert who co-authored the report, at a briefing on immigration system changes hosted by Ethnic Media Services on August 7.

The new regulations reflect the administration’s willingness to enforce technicalities “that have been on books for years,” said Pierce, but have rarely been implemented. Those penalties and restrictions are now being used to restrict immigration into the country, reflecting emerging trends in the administration’s anti-immigration agenda.

What Laws have Changed?

The consensus among immigration experts at the briefing was that the Trump administration has used the current national crises to further their political agenda with executive orders that significantly reduce the flow of legal immigrants into the country.

Ignazia Rodrigues, NILC

Ignazia Rodrigues, immigration policy advocate at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) described the push to add a citizenship question to the census as an example of the administration’s anti-immigrant policy.

Most of the changes have been implemented by executive fiat without going through Congress, explained Pierce. Acting on the rhetoric that immigration poses a threat to the nation’s security and economy, the administration has doubled down on reducing immigration into the country, driving reform through ‘layered changes’ on a series of regulations, policy and programs.

For example, under a new revision, ICE can enforce a1996 law to levy exorbitant fines of $799 a day on unauthorized  immigrants who remain in the country in violation of a removal order.

In another draconian example, the Trump administration has expanded the definition of who fits the Public Charge rule, which bars foreign nationals who receive or are deemed likely to receive public benefits from becoming legal permanent residents. The rule uses the totality of the circumstances test to evaluate a broad set of metrics such as education, English proficiency, income, jobs, health and family size to deny entry to applicants.

As a result, a large number of green card holders are at risk of denial MPI reports, because at least 69% of recent green-card recipients have at least one of the negative factors that could be weighted against them under the regulation. The ruling will disfavor women, the elderly and children, as well as nationals from Central America and Mexico. Findings from MPI also show that immigrants from Africa, Asia, Latin America are less likely to be favored under the new Public Charge rule, said Pierce.

Though these changes may seem like minor technicalities, taken altogether they will have a monumental impact in dismantling and reconstructing the immigration system in the long term, and significantly change the face of U.S. immigration.

The MPI report finds that these critical changes will result in closing off humanitarian benefits, sealing the southern border, creating hurdles for both legal and unauthorized immigrants already in country and reducing legal immigration into the country.

However, the advent of the coronavirus has fueled the administration’s immigration offensive.

“The pandemic has only accelerated the pace of changes this administration has made,” said Pierce, identifying three major changes enforced since the COVID-19 crisis began, and the implication for prospective immigrants.

The administration invoked a 1944 public health law that allows the Surgeon General to restrict the entry of individuals deemed a public health threat, and block people at the US-Mexico border. The order, issued directly from the CDC director Robert Redfield, allows border security to bypass established protocols and expel children and asylum seekers from countries with communicable diseases, effectively ending asylum at the southern border. Human Rights First condemned the CDC order for “ending refugee and child protections at the border indefinitely, endangering rather than saving lives.”

Then, on April 22, President Trump signed a proclamation restricting permanent immigration in order to protect American workers and their jobs. The proclamation and the follow up June 22 proclamation restricting temporary workers, limits the entry of foreign workers (on H1B visas for example) and prospective immigrants applying for employment-based green cards from abroad. It also restricts ‘chain migration’ by temporarily suspending entry for many prospective citizens applying for family-based green cards from other countries. Effectively, citizens and green card holders are prevented from sponsoring family members – parents, siblings, spouses and children – to join them in the US.

Kalpana Peddibhotla, Immigration Attorney

Losing skilled foreign workers would negatively impact innovation and job growth especially in the high tech sector said immigration attorney Kalpana Peddibhotla, as several studies show that “foreign workers in STEM fields are critical to the innovation in the growth of patents,” and “immigrants are twice as likely to start businesses than US born natives.”

However, the restrictions continue unabated.  Travel bans still exist for foreign nationals traveling from 31 different countries, said Pierce, and the President recently signed an executive order restricting the ability of federal contractors to hire foreign nationals; the new order also referenced further restrictions proposed in the future for the H1B program.

These orders achieve what the administration has been working towards long before the pandemic began, remarked Pierce. “It’s hard to imagine them walking back any of these restrictions, even after the pandemic is no longer a prevalent issue.”

It’s uncertain whether future administrations would have the time, resources and willingness to reverse the restrictions said Pierce, adding that some reversals would require careful consideration; for example, if restrictions were lifted at the southern border it could result in a surge of unauthorized arrivals.

As the country begins the slow process of recovery from multiple crises – a pandemic, an economic slowdown and racial injustice uprisings, “It’s hard for me to picture a future administration investing this much in immigration,” said Pierce.

However, she pointed out that a future president could easily reverse the original 2017 travel ban which is still in place and expanded in 2020, because it would send “a visible strong signal that the US is changing its tone on immigration.”

It’s important to note that every one of these executive actions have been contested by lawsuits filed against the administration said Peddibhotla. “This is definitely not a great way for us to be governing and managing our immigration process. But it’s incredibly important that the lawsuits continue in order to hold the administration accountable.”


Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents.

Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

Public Charge Is a Public Attack by Trump Administration

International students at risk of being deported, H1-B visa bans, and the pressing change in public charge all have one thing in common – they are targeted towards immigrants. 

It feels like a car crash caused by a distracted driver, with the wreckage laid bare on the road, making way for those with sturdier vehicles.

While the rest of us are putting on masks with trepidation, dousing our hands in sanitizer, and cautiously going to the grocery store, the Trump Administration’s public charge measure is making its mark on access to social services and the rise of minority deaths during the pandemic. 

Luvia Quiñones of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, explains during the June 26th EMS Briefing on strategies for keeping immigrant families safe, that the last time a change was made to public charge was in 1996. The current ruling gives permission to immigration officials (ICE) to predict, based on current income, skills, and assets, if the green card or visa applicant will potentially end up relying on the government for benefits. And if so, their application will be rejected.

Luvia Quiñones speaking at the EMS briefing on 6/26/20

The pointed measure barring immigrants from coming to the US and becoming citizens, also ensures that immigrants currently in the States are in constant fear. 

Dr. Daniel Turner-Lloveras, Harbor UCLA Medical Center and frontline doctor for COVID-19, reminds us that, “We need to stop detaining immigrants in general”. Why? While USCIS has stated that they will not arrest any undocumented immigrants seeking COVID related help, Dr. Turner-Lloveras questions the intent.

“Do you think suddenly people would come to get care? Especially when they’ve been afraid for years?”

Hospitals and government organizations cannot be the ones to deliver COVID testing and related care to disenfranchised populations. The distrust of our administration, and rightly so, is increasing the risk of transmission and death related to coronavirus. Dr. Turner-Lloveras advocates for emergency health care in community clinics – a solution to the language barrier and scare tactics employed by ICE. 

Exacerbating the disproportionate deaths of marginalized communities in America are the detention centers for immigrants. Detention centers, on average, are high density and unhygienic, with a lack of access to healthcare and basic needs. But compounded with the pandemic, the dialogue must include the rampant medical abuse in such facilities. Detention centers place immigrants in high-risk situations beyond their control.

Image is taken from Freedom for Immigrants.

Yet, this is not where the anti-immigration policies end. The “Remain in Mexico” Program has displaced asylum seekers awaiting trial in the US court system, into high-density housing in unfamiliar territory and isolated their family – a human rights violation and a public health hazard.

The Trump Administration challenges immigrant safety and well being from two angles: policies preventing immigrant stake in the country and access to healthcare and benefits.

Public charge threatens an immigrant’s capacity to stay in the country and potentially apply for Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, disability insurance, unemployment, any government subsidies. Dr. Turner-Lloveras reports that one in ten Latin American families apply for housing subsidies and one in three Latin American families avoid healthcare; these are the same families that are displaced, frontline staff and require assistance.

Connie Choi, Campaign Field Manager & Strategist at the National Immigration Law Center, provides some hope on the federal level, championing undocumented and immigrant rights on the Congress floor. NILC lobbied for the House to pass the Heroes Act, expanding benefits to the undocumented and other non-citizens, which passed on May 15th, 2020. However, this piece of legislation is currently being held up on the Senate floor. Choi urges constituents to call their senators and encourage them to prioritize the Heroes Act and to halt public charge.

For those that will be directly impacted by public charge, Madison Allen, Senior Policy Attorney at CLASP, clarified what is available for immigrant families to protect them during this turbulent time.

If you have a social security number, you can apply for cash assistance, SNAP, Emergency Medicaid, and unemployment insurance without impacting your public charge determination.

For those undocumented, you can apply for Pandemic EBT if you’ve lost free or reduced meals provided for your child by the school. Community health clinics will be providing testing and care for COVID; make sure to check their availability first. All children, regardless of status, are eligible for Medicaid; your child’s Medicaid will not be used to examine your immigration status.

Check your state and localities for benefits being applied by area and district. California Governor, Gavin Newson, implemented the California Disaster Assistance Program for undocumented populations. Through the program, each family can get $500 in direct assistance per person and $1000 per household.

All sources for help are linked within the article.

The wreckage is not a lost cause. I don’t see a totaled car. I see an unhinged door, a broken side mirror, a detached bumper. Focused intent and continuous pressure on our legislators can repair the damage. Our sources of strength lie within our community and with those that resonate with the immigrant plight. So, let’s get to it. As Lin Manuel Miranda raps in the Broadway musical Hamilton, “Immigrants, we get the job done!”

Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Trump’s Fear Tactics Find Favor with Supreme Court Ruling on Public Charge

On Jan 27 the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, lifted an injunction on the Trump administration’s Public Charge Rule, which allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement a policy that denies green cards and permanent resident visas to low-income immigrants and certain categories of legal immigrants, on grounds of inadmissibility.

DHS announced that the rule will take effect nationwide on February 24, 2020. 

Critics like Congresswoman Judy Chu say that entering America now comes with a price tag – the rule favors white and wealthy immigrants, and racially discriminates against poorer immigrant families. 

The National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians (NCAPIP) denounced the Supreme Court decision as an “anti-American, anti-immigrant, inhumane policy (that) is not only unethical, but short sighted and a detriment to the vitality and health of our communities.”

In effect, the policy discourages lawful residents that the government deems likely to rely on public benefits, from using vital human services like Medicaid, food stamps and other government benefits, in case that jeopardizes their path towards permanent residency, and by extension, citizenship. 

A telebriefing on how the Supreme Court’s decision on the Public Charge rule impacts immigrants, was hosted by the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign in partnership with Ethnic Media Services on Friday, January 31. A panel of experts explained the next steps planned by advocacy organizations and congressional allies, and what at-risk immigrants should do. 

The panel featured Congresswoman Judy Chu, Mayra Alvares, President of The Children’s Partnership, Alvaro Huerta of the National Immigration Law Center and Madison Allen, senior policy attorney at CLASP and Co-Chair of the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign.


Who is Affected

“The harm is evident” said Madison Allen, describing how vulnerable communities are responding to miscommunication and anti-immigrant rhetoric about Public Charge regulations. Families confused about how Public Charge impacts them are disenrolling from housing, nutrition and medical benefits programs that are essential to their health and wellbeing. 

USCIS  lists age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills as key factors that will be used to determine who meets the definition for public charge . “No single factor, other than the lack of an affidavit of support, if required, will determine whether an individual is a public charge.”

The law mainly affects immigrants applying for permanent resident status through family member petitions. There is a separate public charge test for people seeking visas from outside the country. 


Harmful Impact of Public Charge

The inadmissibility test with its expanded criteria on age, credit score and disability, will dramatically impact and reshape the immigrant system Allen points out, especially for people of color.

Unfortunately, the policy extends far beyond its intended recipients, says Mayra Alvarez of the Children’s Partnership (LA). Kaiser Family Foundation health centers report increasing numbers of immigrants disenrolling from medical coverage and 90 percent of providers in the survey reported increased anxiety among children. 

Social services and health centers across the country are documenting an increase in calls about whether it’s safe to stay enrolled in health, nutrition and housing programs, and, legal aid attorneys are fielding calls from sexual assault and domestic violence survivors who are fearful of staying enrolled in their benefits program even as they are trying to rebuild their lives. 

The ruling has created ‘a climate of fear’ that is negatively impacting the wellbeing of families who are worried at having to choose between food, medical care, and being together. People are withdrawing from benefits programs supported by tax dollars, even if they are exempt from the Public Charge rule, fearful that their receipt of public benefits will endanger their immigration status. 


Who is NOT Affected

Most immigrants are not affected, says Alvares. People who are exempt include pregnant women, children under 21, people with disabilities and mothers within 60 days after giving birth.

Other programs not subject to Public Charge include:

– Medicaid and health insurance and health services other than support for long-term institutional care.
– WIC, CHIP, SHELTERS, HEADSTART, HUD public housing, foodstamps, Section 8 housing benefits and other non-cash benefits and special-purpose cash benefits that are not intended for income maintenance.

Immigrants applying for citizenship need not worry unless they are planning to leave the country for longer than six months.


How Congress is Responding

Democrat Rep. Judy Chu of California said the Trump administration was ‘on a mission to spread fear and uncertainty among immigrants in the United States.’ The Public Charge was one of ‘a steady stream of anti-immigrant policies’  issued by the White House. Its discriminatory impact has pushed even legal immigrants who have qualified and paid for services to disenroll from these programs, putting families and children at risk for poor health outcomes and living in poverty. Congresswoman Chu has introduced a bill (HR 3222) to prevent any federal dollars from being used to implement the rule, and as Co-Chair of the Congressional Tri-Caucus, also announced that Tri-Caucus leaders have submitted briefs that support litigation opposing the public charge rule  which blatantly discriminates  against immigrants of color.” 


Litigation against Public Charge continues.

Fortunately, says Alvaro Huerta (NILC), the State of Illinois achieved an injunction which is still in effect, that blocks DHS from implementing the new public charge rule there. Lawsuits challenging the rule continue to be filed across the nation in California, New York, Maryland and other districts courts, to determine whether the Trump administration violated the law when it finalized the Public Charge regulation.  Arguments focus on whether the administration failed to consider evidence provided by thousands of commenters on the harm that a racially motivated ruling would cause as it went into effect. 


How to Demystify Public Charge impacts and Fight Back

The key takeaways, says Madison Allen, is to understand who is not affected, which immigrants are most at risk, what programs are exempt and what benefits used by family members are subject to public charge consideration.

Families need to work with community partners and get advice from immigration attorneys to understand how public charge impacts them, cautions Mayra Alvarez. “It is essential that families know their rights”  and find low cost options to get legal assistance.  

Facts Sheets and resources are available at:
www.protectingimmigrantfamilies.org
www.immigrantadvocates.org/legal 
https://www.ilrc.org/public-charge

Meera Kymal is a Contributing Editor at India Currents

 

 

Can the Public Charge Rule Deny Your Green Card?

A recent Politico survey shows that 80% of Indians who applied for green cards were initially denied by a new Public Charge rule, but were able to reverse the decision and get approval. 

In a national telebriefing Jeanne Batalova from the Migration Policy Institute said 69% of recent green card applications were initially denied because applicants used a public benefit (long-term care benefits or cash assistance), and because cases reviewed at embassies and consulates face stricter guidelines enforced by the Department of State.

But, said Batalova, in 2016, out of 1000 applications that were denied by US consulates abroad, over half were able to reverse decisions and get approved. She suggested that families going through the process abroad should consult experts to create a strategy appropriate to their families.

The new Public Charge rule, introduced by the Trump administration in 2018, was expected to go into effect on October 15. However, In October, five federal courts in New York, Washington & Maryland, temporarily blocked changes that would allow the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to deny green cards and permanent resident visas to immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps and other government benefits.

Despite court  injunctions temporarily blocking the new rule, confusion about regulations and  anti-immigrant rhetoric has triggered widespread fear among low-income immigrant families who think their receipt of benefits could harm their current or future immigration status. 

“Much of the damage is already done,” said Mayra Alvarez of the Children’s Partnership (LA), with families declining to enroll in Medicaid, SNAP or other public programs they are entitled to. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported declining enrollment in Medicaid coverage, and a Children’s Partnership survey reported increased anxiety among children about  going to school or the park.

Who Is Affected by the Public Charge Rule?

A Public Charge determination applies only if non-immigrant visa applicants or permanent residence seekers have received public benefits like nursing care facility or hospitalization, or general cash assistance like SSI or TANF, said Allison Davenport, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC).

New criteria added to the list now includes Section 8 Housing, subsidized housing, and food stamps (SNAP) and some forms of  Medicaid.

The DHS will evaluate other factors like age, health, health insurance, job history, education, English skills to determine if an individual could become a public burden, so applicants will need proof of private insurance or make 200 percent of the Federal poverty guidelines.

Those at risk of being denied are persons who have no private health insurance, or who have received 12 months of public benefits listed in the new rule in the 36 months prior to filing their application.

The ILRC co-sponsored a national telebriefing with the National Immigration Law Center and Ethnic Media Services on October 17,  to explain who is affected and how immigrant communities can fight back.

Most Immigrants Are Not Affected

Most undocumented immigrants will not be affected because they are not eligible for these public benefits, said Davenport. They include refugees, asylees, U visa crime victims, T visas human trafficking survivors, and VAWA family violence victims. Special immigrant juveniles ( abused, abandoned and neglected minors) and some people renewing certain forms of temporary protection (DACA, TPS) are also protected. The new regulations also exempt:

Pushback Against Public Charge

More than a quarter million people spoke out against the Public Charge after it was published in Oct 2018, setting a record for the most comments ever submitted to the DHS on any proposed rule.  

Madison Allen, an analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, said that respondents shared research, evidence and powerful stories on how the proposal could potentially harm the health, wellbeing and economies of communities across the country, while members of Congress commented that it was inappropriate for the DHS to override Congressional intent.

A Policy of Exclusion in Search of a Justification

These public comments laid the groundwork for litigation and were central to the nationwide preliminary injunctions the courts issued to block the Public Charge anywhere in the U.S. Judges also mentioned the failure of the administration to take comments into account, the “extreme overreach” of the proposal and its apparent violation of congressional intent. 

Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of New York called the rule “A policy of exclusion in search of a justification.” 

What People Should Do

Alvarez urged families to stay enrolled in their benefits as changes cannot move forward while preliminary injunctions are in place. They should consult immigration attorneys and local non-profits for legal advice on how the new rule will affect their particular case.

The 1999 policy guidelines that remain in effect make it clear that housing, health and nutrition programs cannot be considered in the Public Charge determination, and, it will take months before another interim court rules on the case as it winds its way to the Supreme Court.

A directory of resources is available at  www.immigrantadvocates,org/legal 

Meera Kymal is a Contributing Editor at India Currents