The Department of Homeland Security Issues Final “Public Charge” Rule in the Federal Register – Lawsuits Ensue

August 14, 2019

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its final rules for public inspection, vastly constricting the number of immigrants who might be deemed eligible for lawful permanent residence.

As previously detailed in our October 2018 article, applicants for permanent residence must prove under current law that they would not likely become public charges to the United States and rely on public benefits. Now, the grounds for determination will be expanded to include those with limited income, lack of education and skills, age or health-related issues. The administration's goal is assurance that those applying for immigration to the United States are self-sufficient and will not deprive vulnerable Americans of benefits.

While the preamble to the rule indicates that DHS does not intend to reduce legal immigration, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the National Immigration Law Center and others have condemned publication of the rules and the "more likely than not" subjective standard that individual consular officials or immigration examiners making determinations as to admissibility to this country.

The National Immigration Law Center plans to file a lawsuit claiming that the new rules represent an attempt to redefine the legal immigration system "in order to disenfranchise communities of color and favor the wealthy." David Skorton, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, was quoted stating, "This change will worsen existing health inequities and disparities, cause further harm to many underserved and vulnerable populations, and increase costs to the health care system overall, which will affect all patients."

It is interesting to note that it is under the administration of current DHS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli that these rules have been promulgated. Former USCIS Director Francis Cissna did not authorize issuance of the rule, despite having it ready to roll for close to a year.

More than 200,000 comments were issued in response to the rule, which will become final on October 15, 2019.

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