There has long been a regulation that made immigrants inadmissible to the US if they are deemed to be a public charge (INA Sections 212(a)(4) and 237(a)(5)), but this policy was rarely enforced. If an immigrant applying for legal permanent resident status (commonly referred to as a greencard), they must be found to be admissible to the US or their application will not be granted. Thus, an immigrant who is found to be a public charge will be deemed inadmissible and ineligible for a greencard (without needing a waiver of inadmissibility).
USCIS has stated that new forms and rules will be released prior to February 24, 2020. After the implementation date, USCIS will reject any filings using the earlier forms. The new forms will include additional questions related to receiving public benefits to help determine whether an applicant for permanent resident status is likely to become financially dependent on the taxpayers any time in the near future if they are granted a greencard. The existing forms do ask questions about this but the issue is usually passed over without much concern during adjustment of status interviews and applicants are rarely, if ever, denied a greencard for collecting public benefits that they were not legally allowed to collect. It is expected that the new forms will ask more detailed questions and result in this issue being examined more closely during the adjustment of status interview.
USCIS posted an official news release on this topic titled: USCIS Announces Public Charge Rule Implementation Following Supreme Court Stay of Nationwide Injunctions
The policy for determining whether or not an immigrant is or is likely to become a public charge is fairly simple. If the immigrant received social/public benefits for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period then USCIS can make a finding that the immigrant is “not self-sufficient” and thus a public charge or likely to become a public charge and are inadmissible and thus ineligible for legal permanent resident status (a green card). Public and social benefits include but are not limited to: food stamps, housing assistance, cash benefits, and federally funded Medicaid services.
On January 31, 2020, USCIS tweeted that new forms and filing instructions will be posted on the USCIS website, “in the near future.” Experts on this issue have discussed possible changes on the AILA website. USCIS has further stated that a practice advisory will be issued regarding the new forms and policy.
Criticizing President Trump for enforcing a law that was created before he held any elected office makes absolutely no sense and shows ignorant fools will attack Trump for anything he does. Partisan politics have turned public policy into a sporting event where people blindly defend their favorite team rather than considering facts or exercising any sort of independent thought.
Furthermore, criticizing the policy itself is odd. The immigration policies in this country are racially discriminatory by their very nature and are enforced in a way that make no sense. The public charge policy is a policy that seems fairly logical. If a person is in the US, not paying taxes themselves but instead living off the taxpayer dime, collecting benefits they are not legally entitled to, that seems like a valid consideration for the granting of an immigration benefit.
Reading the media coverage swirling around this matter, they make it seem like there is no valid reason to deny an immigration benefit under the public charge policy but there is no justification provided for this claim. It is hard to understand how any reasonable person could claim that a person who has been unlawfully collecting public benefits (paid for by the taxpayers) for a third of the time they have been present in the US should not have to provide any sort of assurance that if they are granted legal permanent resident status in the US they don’t intend on becoming a permanent financial burden on the taxpayers and a drain on limited social benefits, or that USCIS should not at least be able to consider the applicant’s past dependence on public benefits when adjudicating an application for legal permanent resident status.
The public charge ground of inadmissibility is not new but it is finally going to be enforced consistently. There will now be an official policy regarding the enforcement of these policies and now immigrants and immigration lawyers will know who to avoid findings of inadmissibility under the public charge grounds.
The Final Rule on Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds is published in the Public Register by the State Department and can be found here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/10/11/2019-22399/visas-ineligibility-based-on-public-charge-grounds