As you may know, the US government is changing the rules on Green-Card eligibility and using public benefits. Below is the write-up on the final ruling. This plus more info can be found here: https://www.uscis.gov/legal-resources/final-rule-public-charge-ground-inadmissibility

Final Rule on Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility

The rule applies to applicants for admission, aliens seeking to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent residents from within the United States, and aliens within the United States who hold a nonimmigrant visa and seek to extend their stay in the same nonimmigrant classification or to change their status to a different nonimmigrant classification. 

The final rule does not create any penalty or disincentive for past, current, or future receipt of public benefits by U.S. citizens or aliens whom Congress has exempted from the public charge ground of inadmissibility. The final rule does not apply to U.S. citizens, even if the U.S. citizen is related to a noncitizen who is subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility. The rule also does not apply to aliens whom Congress exempted from the public charge ground of inadmissibility, such as refugees, asylees, Afghans and Iraqis with special immigrant visas, and certain  nonimmigrant trafficking and crime victims, individuals applying under the Violence Against Women Act, special immigrant juveniles, or to those who DHS has granted a waiver of public charge inadmissibility.  

In addition, this rule also clarifies that DHS will not consider the receipt of designated public benefits received by an alien who, at the time of receipt, or at the time of filing the application for admission, adjustment of status, extension of stay, or change of status, is enlisted in the U.S. armed forces, or is serving in active duty or in any of the Ready Reserve components of the U.S. armed forces, and will not consider the receipt of public benefits by the spouse and children of such service members. The rule further provides that DHS will not consider public benefits received by children, including adopted children, who will acquire U.S. citizenship under INA section 320, 8 U.S.C. 1431. 

Similarly, DHS will not consider the Medicaid benefits received: (1) for the treatment of an “emergency medical condition,” (2) as services or benefits provided in connection with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (3) as school-based services or benefits provided to individuals who are at or below the oldest age eligible for secondary education as determined under State or local law, (4) by aliens under the age of 21, and (5) by pregnant women and by women within the 60-day period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy. 

DHS will only consider public benefits received directly by the applicant for the applicant’s own benefit, or where the applicant is a listed beneficiary of the public benefit. DHS will not consider public benefits received on behalf of another as a legal guardian or pursuant to a power of attorney for such a person. DHS will also not attribute receipt of a public benefit by one or more members of the applicant’s household to the applicant unless the applicant is also a listed beneficiary of the public benefit. 

Q. Which benefits are included in public charge inadmissibility determinations? 

DHS will only consider public benefits as listed in the rule:   

  • Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance   
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) 
  • Federal, state or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” in the state context, but which may exist under other names)  
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or formerly called “Food Stamps”) 
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program 
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)  
  • Public Housing under section 9 the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. 1437 et seq. 
  • Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions) 

This rule also clarifies that DHS will not consider the receipt of designated public benefits received by an alien who, at the time of receipt, or at the time of filing the application for admission, adjustment of status, extension of stay, or change of status, is enlisted in the U.S. armed forces, or is serving in active duty or in any of the Ready Reserve components of the U.S. armed forces, and will not consider the receipt of public benefits by the spouse and children of such service members. The rule further provides that DHS will not consider public benefits received by children, including adopted children, who will acquire U.S. citizenship under INA 320, 8 U.S.C. 1431 or INA 322, 8 U.S.C. 1433. 

DHS also will not consider:  

  1. The receipt of Medicaid for the treatment of an emergency medical condition;  
  2. Services or benefits funded by Medicaid but provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;  
  3. School-based services or benefits provided to individuals who are at or below the oldest age eligible for secondary education as determined under state or local law;  
  4. Medicaid benefits received by an alien under 21 years of age; or  
  5. Medicaid benefits received by a woman during pregnancy and during the 60-day period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy.   

The final rule also clarifies that DHS will only consider public benefits received directly by the applicant for the applicant’s own benefit, or where the applicant is a listed beneficiary of the public benefit. DHS will not consider public benefits received on behalf of another as a legal guardian or pursuant to a power of attorney for such a person. DHS will also not attribute receipt of a public benefit by one or more members of the applicant’s household to the applicant, unless the applicant is also a listed beneficiary of the public benefit. 

Q. How will DHS determine whether someone is likely at any time to become a public charge for admission or adjustment purposes? 

A. Under the final rule, “likely at any time to become a public charge” means more likely than not at any time in the future to become a public charge (in other words, more likely than not at any time in the future to receive one or more of the designated public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period, such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months).  

Under this final rule, inadmissibility based on the public charge ground is determined by looking at the factors set forth in 8 CFR 212.22 and making a determination of the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a public charge at any time in the future based on the totality of the circumstances. This means that the adjudicating officer must weigh both the positive and negative factors when determining whether someone is more likely than not at any time in the future to become a public charge. As required by section 212(a)(4) of the Act, and this final rule, when making a public charge inadmissibility determination, a USCIS officer must consider the applicant’s: 

  • Age; 
  • Health; 
  • Family status; 
  • Assets, resources, and financial status; 
  • Education and skills; 
  • Prospective immigration status; 
  • Expected period of admission; and  
  • Sufficient Form I-864, when required under section 212(a)(4)(C) or (D) of the INA. 

Q. What factors weigh heavily in favor of a determination that someone is likely at any time to become a public charge? 

A. The following factors will generally weigh heavily in favor of a finding that an alien is likely at any time to become a public charge: 

  • The alien is not a full-time student and is authorized to work but cannot show current employment, recent employment history, or a reasonable prospect of future employment. 
  • The alien has received, or has been certified or approved to receive, one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period, beginning no earlier than 36 months before the alien applied for admission or adjustment of status on or after Oct. 15, 2019. 
  • The alien has been diagnosed with a medical condition that is likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization or that will interfere with his or her ability to provide for him or herself, attend school, or work and he or she is uninsured and has neither the prospect of obtaining private health insurance nor the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs related to a medical condition. 
  • The alien has previously been found by an immigration judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals to be inadmissible or deportable based on public charge grounds.  

Q. What factors weigh heavily against a determination that someone is likely at any time to become a public charge? 

A. The following factors would weigh heavily against a finding that an alien is likely to become a public charge: 

  • The alien has household income, assets, resources, and support from a sponsor, excluding any income from illegal activities or from public benefits, of at least 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for his or her household size. 
  • The alien is authorized to work and is currently employed in a legal industry with an annual income of at least 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household of his or her household size. 
  • The alien has private health insurance appropriate for the expected period of admission, so long as the alien does not receive subsidies in the form of premium tax credits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to pay for such health insurance. 

What does that mean for food bank usage?

You can still use them! Clients information is only used for tallying separate households. The information we request are names of people in your household, birthdays and address. We do not verify any of this information and it doesn’t need to be true or real; you just need to remember some of the info in the case of a lost client card. We do not report any of these to any group or company or government body; it all stays in our systems for us alone. All we report is how many people we have served and how many family members they have, all as numbers only.

Below is the legal authority of ICE and how we deal with their presence and requests

Can Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents enter food banks or meal programs? Open areas yes, private areas (an area with a door that locks) no, unless they have a signed judicial warrant.

Can ICE stop and question individuals about their immigration status while at my food bank or meal program? ICE agents can question anyone to determine whether they have documentation to live in the U.S. Physical appearance alone isn’t justification to stop. ICE agents can consider appearance along with other indicators such as difficulty speaking English or appearing nervous. The U.S. Border Patrol doesn’t need a warrant to search vehicles or ask people for documentation within 100 air miles of any external border. Mount Vernon is within this limit. For more information, see: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights-100-mile-border-zone

Can ICE take data or documents from food banks or partnering agencies? Not without Neighbors in Need’s consent and we never consent without a judicial search warrant granting them access to search for the listed items. A judge or magistrate must have signed the warrant within the past 14 days. Northwest Harvest’s Immigration Rights and Resources Toolkit says that evidence seized without a warrant can still be used in civil deportation proceedings.

If ICE ever arrives on our premises, we will attempt to assist all clients and volunteers and we do not give over any information freely unless compelled to by law.

We hope that these new laws will not stop you from visiting our food bank and receiving the help you need!

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