After several months of litigation in the courts, a couple of weeks ago the Supreme Court of the United States decided to go forward to the regulation proposed by the administration of President Trump, regarding the denial of visas to immigrants that the government determines if they will or could be a public charge.
The decision, like many others, was a 5-4, divided by the court’s strong political ideologies. However, even though the decision allows the rulemaking to go into effect, it is only a temporary measure, as the merits of the case continue to be disputed in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
In summary, the regulation in question was announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in August 2019, and was scheduled to begin during the month of October of the same year.
Its purpose is to prevent people who the government thinks may become a public charge from obtaining visas or their legal permanent residence in the country.
To do this, the government will not only use information that suggests that the immigrant has already benefited from programs such as Medicaid, stamps or housing assistance, but can also make an inference that they will use these benefits in the future.
To do this, the government has to conclude that it is more likely than not, that, over a period of 3 years, the immigrant will receive some type of assistance for 12 months or more.
This conclusion, in turn, can be supported by factors such as their financial ability, education and skills, age, health, and even their fluency in the English language.
According to initial estimates from the Department of Homeland Security, about 382,000 immigrants seeking to adjust their status are expected to be affected, but many of us think this number could be higher.
Worst of all, most of the affected people will be those who try to emigrate from low-income countries or those who, even already living in the United States, continue to have few economic resources.
The consequences of this new regulation are clear in terms of the effect they will have on the adjudication of immigration applications and requests.
However, regulation also has consequences that are not so obvious to the naked eye. For example, it puts the health and well-being of immigrants already within the United States at risk, since many of them will prefer not to apply for public assistance that they possibly need to survive, in exchange for a better chance of fixing their legal status.
This can cause many of them not to receive medical attention for their health problems, are forced to live on the streets, or entire families do not have access to proper food.
Following the recent decision, the rule will take effect on February 24 of this year. Thus, if you have plans to submit your application to adjust your status and at any time received financial assistance from the government, I recommend that you immediately consult with an immigration attorney and try to apply for your residence before the aforementioned date.
* Naimeh Salem is a certified Texas attorney practicing immigration in Houston.