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The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday proposed a new “public charge” rule that would drastically reduce the number of benefits legal immigrants can use that would be held against them when applying for permanent residence in the United States, including food stamps and Medicaid.
The proposed change would mark a significant reversal in Trump administration policy.
“Under this proposed rule, we will return to the historical understanding of the term ‘public charge,’ and individuals will not be penalized for choosing to access health benefits and other additional government services available to them,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. in a report.
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“Public charge” is a long-standing concept in immigration law. It refers to someone deemed likely to be dependent on government assistance and is a condition for denying someone immigration status.
The Trump administration introduced a ‘public charge’ rule in 2019 which expanded the definition of “public charge” to include an immigrant who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months in any 36-month period. Whether an immigrant would be a “public charge” would be considered when the immigrant applies for permanent residence in the United States
These benefits include Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, as well as most forms of Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). ), commonly referred to as food stamps. The rule expands the number of benefits that can be counted from interim guidelines issued in 1999.
Trump administration officials said the rule was intended to protect taxpayers from increased public charges from abroad and to ensure that immigrants coming to the United States legally are self-sufficient.
“The principle behind it is an old American value, and that’s self-sufficiency,” Ken Cuccinelli, former acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), told Fox News. in an interview in 2019.
“It’s a fundamental tenet – the American Dream itself – and it’s one of the things that sets us apart, and it’s at the heart of legal history in the United States well into the 1800s.”
However, immigration activists and the Biden administration believed it scared immigrants away from accessing benefits in case it put their claims at risk. The Biden administration has dropped the legal defense against challenges to the rule, though Republican states have sought to embrace that defense and a Supreme Court fight over that effort looms.
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“The 2019 public charge rule was inconsistent with our nation’s values,” Mayorkas said in his statement.
Under the Biden administration’s new rule, SSI, TANF, state, tribal and local cash assistance for income maintenance and “long-term institutionalization at government expense” would still be taken into account. into account when officials would make a decision on public charges.
However, the administration is proposing to ignore a range of other taxpayer-funded benefits, which foreign nationals might receive without ever being held against them when applying for a green card. These include food stamps/SNAP, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), most Medicaid benefits, housing allowances, and transportation vouchers.
DHS said it also would not consider disaster relief, pandemic relief such as tax credits or Social Security, government pensions, or any other benefits earned by paying contributions to the system.
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This rule applies to those who go through the regular immigration process and are legally in the country on a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa and apply for a green card. Public charge assessments are not done for asylum seekers, refugees, recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and others.
The rule is part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to realign the US immigration system with what it sees as a more welcoming approach to immigrants. USCIS recently released a new mission statement that declares the United States a “welcoming nation.”