The Trump Administration’s “public charge” rule, announced earlier this week, would force immigrants to undergo a rigorous wealth test in order to become a Lawful Permanent Resident. Often referred to as obtaining one’s “green card,” Permanent Resident status is an important step in the process of becoming a US citizen. Under this rule, immigrants’ financial history and status would be analyzed to determine if they have in the past used or are likely in the future to use federal public assistance programs like SNAP, Section 8, Medicaid, or TANF. Immigrants may be denied their green card if they have used or appear likely to use these programs.
Without a doubt, the public charge policy is the newest tool in the current Administration’s toolkit to curb immigration, undermine the country’s social safety net, and unsettle immigrant communities. This policy blatantly favors wealthy immigrants, and boldly inserts racist, white supremacist, and classist rhetoric into a process which should be open and equitable for all.
The public charge rule was written in a way that is purposefully confusing and deceptive. While the public charge test doesn’t apply to every immigrant, and the use of public benefits will not automatically make someone ineligible for a green card, it’s obvious that the Trump Administration hopes that this news will deter immigrant communities from using the public assistance they are lawfully eligible for.
Here are some straightforward facts about the rule, including who is affected and when:
–The use of public benefits will not automatically mean you are ineligible for a green card. Immigration officials are legally obligated to look at each immigrant’s economic status as a complete picture, taking into account other factors like education level, current income, skills, health, etc.
–This ruling does not apply to every immigrant. Refugees, asylees, survivors of domestic violence, trafficking, or other serious crimes, and other types of visa holders will not be subject to this rule. People who already have their green card are similarly not subject.
–This ruling is effective October 15, 2019. Benefits used before this date are not counted. Any use of public assistance programs prior to October 15, 2019, will not legally be counted in this ruling. If you used public assistance before this date, you can be assured this will not count against you.
–This ruling does not consider the use of public assistance by other family members. Public assistance used by eligible family members will not be counted against you in your own immigration case.
–Finally, this ruling is NOT final. State governments and immigration rights organizations across the country are doing all they can to stop this ruling. In the few days since this ruling was announced on August 12, 13 states, including Washington have filed lawsuits against it. Other organizations, such as the National Immigration Law Center have vowed to file suits as well. Pushback by states, communities, and advocacy organizations can ensure that this policy may never actually be implemented.