Shortly before this week’s presidential election, the Trump Administration announced a rule that blocked the issuance of green cards for immigrants who used food stamps or other public benefits. The government was sued by several immigrant advocate organizations who charged that the rule was illegal. On November 2, a federal judge in Chicago issued an order holding that the rule is illegal and that it cannot be enforced by the government.
The rule, known as “the public charge rule,” allowed government immigration officials to deny permanent residency to legal immigrants who use food stamps, Medicaid, housing vouchers or similar public benefits. The ostensible rationale for the rule was to prevent immigrants from taking advantage of public programs by denying their requests for permanent residency status in the United States. The rule has existed for a number of years, but the Trump Administration’s changes broadened the category of benefits that might disqualify an immigrant from lawful status. The United States Supreme Court had recently ruled that the order could go into effect, but the order from the Federal District Court in Chicago again blocked enforcement of the order.
According to immigration activists, the rule had its greatest impact on preventing needy immigrants from obtaining necessary health care. Removing this barrier will improve access to health care for all immigrants.
The new order
Judge Gary Feinerman ruled that the Trump Administration had violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act by failing to follow the many procedural steps necessary to enact a new regulation. The United States Immigration and Citizenship Services stated that it would cease applying the public charge rule immediately.
The long view
Anyone who is seeking a green card or fears that they may have violated the public charge rule may wish to consult an experienced immigration lawyer for advice on the current state of the law and for assistance in obtaining a green card.