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Federal Appeals Court Temporarily Approves Trump Administration Rule Denying Green Cards to Immigrants Who Use Public Benefits

The Trump administration drafted a rule that made it harder for legal immigrants in American to obtain their green cards. That rule requires that immigrants be denied a green card – if they receive any public benefits such as food stamps. The idea behind the controversial rule is that people who use public benefits may not be an asset to America.

The position of the Trump administration is that only immigrants who are self-sufficient should be able to apply. Opponents argue that many citizens use public benefits at some stage of their life – and the benefits are just a stepping-stone to becoming able to contribute to the American success story.

The court cases

The status of the rule is changing as different federal district courts and appellate courts decide whether the rule is legal. Our Texas immigration lawyers are keeping current with the status of the rule so we can advise you and anyone you know who is seeking a green card. We understand how frustrating these court cases are to follow.

In January of 2020, the US Supreme Court had ruled that the Trump policy on limiting green cards to people who didnt use public benefits could continue. Enforcement of the law was put on hold by a NY federal judge – due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, the 2nd Circuit US Court of Appeals reversed that federal judges decision – and permitted enforcement of the rule to continue.

Recently, AP News reported on November 4, 2020, that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal, based in Chicago, Illinois, placed a hold on a US District Court decision regarding green cards and public benefits.

What are green cards?

Green cards, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), are formally called Permanent Resident Cards. The holder of a green card is permitted to live and work in the United States. Holders of green cards may be eligible for US citizenship after a three-five year waiting period. There are different types of green card categories based on:

Your family status. This includes being a wife or minor child of a US citizen. Fiancés, widows, and other family members may also be eligible for a green card.

Your employment. Immigrants may be eligible based on the type of work they do, their profession, their abilities, or other criteria. Physicians and investors may also be eligible.

A special status. This category includes religious workers, international broadcasters, or another special category.

You or someone you know may also be eligible for a green card if you qualify as a refugee, victim of abuse, or are a human trafficking and crime victim.

How is the benefit-disqualifying rule is being applied?

Due to the hold by the federal appellate court, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stopped considering pending green card applications.

A representative for the USCIS said that the federal agency will immediately begin applying the rule to pending cases. The USCIS will not relitigate any petitions or applications that have already been approved.

Public benefits, according to the USCIS include any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance that is used for income maintenance. Examples of public benefits include:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Federal, state, or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including moderate rehabilitation)
  • Housing under the Housing Act of 1937

Some of these programs may be known by other names.

The objections to the public charge green card rule

Opponents of the Trump rule argue that the public charge test is just a wealth test.

Health professionals are very concerned that the rule forces low-income migrants to select whether they obtain funds to take care of their health or select staying in the country. This choice puts their health at risk.

According to Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (as reported by National Public Radio), the rule is a way of using the programs which are supposed to help people – as a weapon against them. The rule helps to separate families. The Trump administration rule, according to the director also lets immigrants know that theyre not welcome in America.

The Urban Institute reported, according to NPR, that the rule has a chilling effect. 13.7% (one in seven) adults in immigrant families say that they or someone in the family chose not to seek public benefits so they wouldnt be disqualified from seeking green card status.”

Speak with a strong Austin immigration advocate today

At Lyttle Law Firm, our Austin and San Marcos immigration lawyers understand how much people want to legally stay in America. We fight for people living in Travis, Hays, Comal, Williamson, Bell, Caldwell, Burnett, Llano, and Guadalupe Counties and nationwide. We offer Zoom consults and phone consults world-wide. Contact us at 512.215.5225 or via our online form to schedule an appointment.

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