Biden to Reverse Trump’s Public Charge Rule that Denied Green Card to Immigrants Receiving Federal Aid

After one year of having assumed presidential responsibilities, Joe Biden is all set to put the Trump-era public charge rule on a reverse gear. Introduced in the Trump regime of immigration-related uncertainties, the hardline public charge rule curbed immigrants’ claim to permanent residency on grounds of limited self-sufficiency. Since the 1800s, there has been a law that foreign nationals are inadmissible to the country and immigrants are ineligible for green cards if they lack self-sufficiency, or if they are likely to become a ‘public charge’ (economic burden on the country). The Trump administration defined ‘self-sufficiency’ as a fundamental criterion for individuals seeking entry to the US, noncitizens seeking legal permanent residency, and non-immigrant visa holders seeking extension of stay in the US.

On February 17, President Biden proposed new regulations to soften the ‘public charge’ definition and limit public charge determinations, as the Department of Homeland Security’s Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas made it clear that the 2019 public charge rule is not consistent with the United States’ constitutional values. He said, “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 the health benefits and other supplemental government services available to them.”

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The Trump administration defended the public charge rule by arguing that it would help non-immigrants and certain immigrant groups become self-sufficient in the best interests of the US economy. The then Secretary of DHS, Kirstjen Nielsen said, “Those planning to immigrate to the United States must establish their ability to meet their housing and healthcare needs and other requirements, relying on their own capabilities and resources as long as they will be staying here.” However, humanitarians, civil rights activists and Democrats condemned the 2019 public charge rule as a deliberate act of discrimination against low-income immigrants.

The Trump-era public charge rule, if enforced, would have affected mostly the green card seekers who entered the US through family-based immigration. Furthermore, H4 visa holders would have been required to prove their self-sufficiency despite having no work authorization. The breakup of many immigrant families would have been the worst repercussion of the public charge rule.

Joe Biden’s proposal, which will soon be open to public comments, seeks to provide ‘fair and humane treatment’ to noncitizens by redefining “likely at any time to become a public charge” as “likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” Biden’s version of the public charge rule will not consider those receiving noncash benefits, among the federal aid programs, as a ‘public charge’. The federal government’s noncash benefits include the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, housing and transportation vouchers.

The new public charge rule will also not include Social Security, pandemic assistance, government pension, disaster aid received under the Stafford Act, and benefits in the form of tax credit or deduction. Some categories of non-citizens, including refugees, asylees, special immigration juveniles, temporary protected status (TPS) applicants, and petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act will be exempt even from the new public charge rule.

However, the Department of Homeland Security will continue to consider certain federal benefits as public charge inadmissibility determinations. These benefits are Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Cash assistance for income maintenance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), program, and long-term institutionalization at government expense.

One thought on “Biden to Reverse Trump’s Public Charge Rule that Denied Green Card to Immigrants Receiving Federal Aid

  1. bkaur

    it is only fair that someone who comes to the country SHOULD BE Self-sufficient and be able to take care of themselves and their families and NOT be a burden on the country’s tax payers. It is not fair to the American tax payers to be forced to support people who come here from another country. Anyone is welcome to come here to visit, to live and work here, but come legally and NOT on the backs of American tax payers. The country should NOT be their sponsor and take care of their expenses… anyone who comes here should be able to take care of themselves financially while here…


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