US to make it easier to get permanent residency for low-income immigrants

The Biden administration will make it easier for low-income immigrants to become permanent residents of the United States with new regulations in December that will mark a step change from strict Trump-era immigration requirements, said announced Thursday the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

A DHS regulation which takes effect Dec. 23 will codify long-standing standards that dictate when immigrants can be considered an economic burden on the country, or a “public charge.” An immigrant considered a public charge would be disqualified from obtaining permanent residency or a green card.

The Biden administration’s new rules represent a significant departure from those put in place by former President Donald Trump on who falls into this category. Under the Trump administration, DHS has dramatically increased the number and types of government benefits used by some immigrants, which could make them ineligible for permanent residency.

Under the Trump-era rule – which went into effect in 2020 after a months-long legal battle – the use of housing stamps, food stamps and Medicaid could be charged to immigrants seeking cards green. The Trump settlement also created a new test that took into account applicants’ income, age, medical conditions, skills and family size to determine if they were likely to count on these benefits at the office. coming.

Under the rule taking effect in December, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will only consider green card applicants a public charge if they “are likely at any time to become primarily dependent of the government for their subsistence”.

This could be the case if they require long-term government-funded institutionalization or public cash benefit programs, such as Supplemental Security Income or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The Trump administration has said its rule promotes self-sufficiency among immigrants. But immigrant advocates have denounced the policy as a draconian wealth test, pointing to the “chilling effectshe had about immigrant families, including those with U.S. citizen children, who feared accessing the benefits to which they were entitled.

Within two months of President Biden taking office, his administration stopped defending the 2019 public charge rule from lawsuits, allowing a federal court ruling to block the policy, which the Secretary of State said. Internal Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, “did not conform to the values ​​of our nation”.

In February, the Biden administration released a draft of its own public office regulations, which received more than 10,000 public comments. The administration said Thursday that its regulations were designed to curb the “chilling effect” the Trump-era rule was having on mixed-status immigrant households.

“This action ensures fair and humane treatment of legal immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members,” Mayorkas said in a statement Thursday. “Consistent with America’s core values, we will not penalize individuals who choose to access health benefits and other additional government services available to them.”

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants apply for residency in the United States each year, most of them based on sponsorship applications from family members with US citizenship or employers. People who have been granted refugee or asylum status are also eligible to apply for green cards, although public charge rules do not apply to them.

In fiscal year 2021, USCIS received about 648,000 green card applications, according to government data. During the first half of fiscal year 2022, the agency checked in 280,000 new green card applications.

The public charge test was first codified in US law in the late 19th century, when the federal government began to regulate immigration, especially from non-European countries. During the same period, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, banning most immigrants from China for decades.

The 2019 public charge rule was part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to limit legal immigration. Under former President Donald Trump, the United States has reduced the number of refugee admissions to record lows, sought to ban immigrants who could not afford health care, and issued a partial immigration ban during the pandemic.

The Biden administration has reversed Trump’s immigration limits and dramatically increased the number of refugees. But he has struggled to rebuild refugee resettlement infrastructure and reform a legal immigration system crippled by bureaucratic delays, reliance on paper records and a growing backlog of unresolved cases.

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