2nd Court of Appeals Reinstates President Trump’s Wealth Test For Green Card Applicants

Posted on 09/24/20

On Tuesday, The Trump administration announced the reinstatement of the “public charge rule” which targets immigrants solely based on their financial status. The public charge rule discriminates against immigrants who are likely or liable to become a public charge to The United States Government and may be denied a green card. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) announced that legal immigrants who are currently receiving or have received public benefits like Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and public housing for more than 12 months, would be classified as a public charge, therefore being ineligible for permanent residency. Kenneth Cuccinelli, the acting director of USCIS stated the policy will “have the long-term benefit of protecting taxpayers by ensuring people who are immigrating to this country don’t become public burdens, that they can stand on their own two feet, as immigrants in years past have done.”

The shameful wealth test for green card applicants will block millions of non-citizens from permanent residency during a time of economic despair. As millions of undocumented immigrants face unemployment, the Trump administration’s policy will impact communities across the country. Although facing numerous court battles, the 2019 rule was upheld by the Supreme court early this year. In late July, Judge George Daniels, a United States Federal Judge blocked the policy citing the implications of limiting immigrants from applying for government assistance, which could jeopardize their immigration status. Judge Daniels stressed the importance of recovery for immigrant communities and withholding needed medical and government aid during the pandemic would be unamerican. Such actions will work against immigrants.

After the ruling, the Trump administration filed an appeal with the 2nd circuit which ultimately suspended and limited Judge Daniels’ ruling. Following the Supreme courts February 24, 2020 ruling on the Public Charge Rule, all pending green card applications would follow the Trump administration public charge order. Fortunately, applications approved after Judge Daniel’s ruling will not be re-adjudicated, giving relief to some immigrants.

The Public charge didn’t come to fruition under the Trump Administration. In fact, the policy has been around for centuries with different requirements. Although the policy discriminates based on wealth and on individual’s disabilities, The United States Government first implemented restrictive public charge rules in the late 1800s. After decades of inviting foreign immigrants into the United States, political officials began to restrict and regulate immigration at the federal level. The Immigration Act of 1882 targeted immigrants who were found to be” unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge” unsuitable for American citizenship and therefore denied their entry. The first rule explicitly targeted Chinese Immigrants, with the Chinese Exclusion Act and subsequent orders based on the premise that immigrants may fall burden on the “good order.” Subsequent orders followed in the early 1900s where deportations were conducted on behalf of the federal bureaucracy solely based on an individual’s financial status. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 raised standards of sponsorship for permanent residency and required sponsors to reimburse the Government if the individuals became a public charge. The Clinton-era guidance severely limited the definition of what a public charge is considered, while directly targeting long-term institutionalized care or those obtaining government cash assistance as a Public Charge. Under the Trump Administration, the definition of a public charge was expanded superseding the Clinton era guidance. After several decades of prohibiting certain low-income immigrants, the Public Charge rule remains a pinnacle component of our immigration system.

The Public charge rule discourages immigrants from accessing tax-payer funded assistance programs, even when millions of immigrants fund such programs. In fear of retaliation from government officials, undocumented immigrants have been forced to face the pandemic on their own, sacrificing necessary assistance so their applications could still be processed. The Trump administration argues that such orders protect immigrants while developing a sense of self-sufficiency without having to rely on the government. The Assistant Director for Homeland Security, Ken Cucinelli recently stated, “That expectation in our law that legal immigrants who are going to stay here long-term can stand on their own two feet is a very long-standing not just tradition, but it’s a long-standing legal requirement, I can cite family history in my Italian family about people who were sponsors and making sure their sponsors had jobs and those kinds of things. That’s what we expect.”

When immigrating to the United States, you need an experienced legal advocate by your side. Attorney James A. Welcome has spent nearly two-decades fighting on behalf of undocumented immigrants across the world. Entrusted by thousands, Attorney Welcome has taken all actions possible to secure the rights of undocumented immigrants, while reaching favorable outcomes. Your case doesn’t stop because of government restrictions or the coronavirus pandemic. At the Law Office of James A. Welcome, we offer secure no-hassle video consultations so that you don’t ever have to leave your home. Our goal is to keep you safe while pursuing your case. Contact our team today at (203) 753-7300.