Published October 29, 2019

Conversations involving the hot topics of public benefits and immigration have turned scary these days.  That is because these are two of the biggest go-to issues for the Trump administration when it comes to political messaging and rousing up supporters.  However, in just the past week 5 federal judges, presiding over 5 separate legal challenges, have ruled against the Trump administration.  The rulings put a halt to the Administration’s initiative to greatly expand upon bases to deny green cards to prospective applicants due to suspicions they may become a public charge.

To be sure, concerns about new immigrants becoming dependent on our nation’s welfare system have always been a part of our immigration law landscape.  This includes detailed requirements for family based applicants to be covered by guarantee issued by a financially solid sponsoring U.S. citizen or resident, that the applicant will not become dependent on certain government benefits.  But regardless of how big of a problem immigrant welfare issue truly is, the Trump administration has declared it to be among our society’s biggest.  Accordingly, in recent weeks, the Administration has taken unprecedented measures to implement a wide reaching set of guidelines that expand on current legal definitions.  These provisions expand on public charge bases of ineligibility, including the type of public assistance that might now be forbidden and the discretion immigration decision-makers have to deny applications.

In response, within just days of implementation, public interest organizations and governmental entities filed suit against the Administration, seeking to block the program’s enactment.  The common theme to these challenges is that the Administration’s expansion of current provisions by way of unilateral executive branch action is an overstepping of authority and into territory meant for our nation’s legislative branch.  Just as important, some of the lawsuits cite concerns that the proposed expanded public charge provisions would create a deterrent effect and danger for immigration applicants or immigrants in general now in the U.S.  This population, according to the lawsuits, may now be inclined to avoid availing of certain government benefits they are otherwise legally entitled to receive for fear of getting their green cards denied, or being deported.

Most notably, the new initiative seeks to expand the definition of “public charge” to include individuals who have in the past or might in the future be using cash assistance AS WELL AS non cash assistance, such as housing subsidies or health benefits.  Such a broadened definition serves to disqualify a significantly larger population of applicants for U.S. residence, since in the past, non-cash assistance was previously not a part of any equation with regard to assessing the public charge basis of ineligibility

By these rulings, the courts have put a temporary stop on program implementation and until a further, more expansive examination of its legality can be completed.  Further developments on these court battles continue to be covered here.

PUBLISHED October 29, 2019– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2019, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois