Regulatory policy

Biden rule could help prevent revival of Trump’s key immigration policy

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Thursday it would propose a settlement that some say will make it harder for future administrations to restore the Trump-era “public charge” policy that allowed authorities to deny permanent residency to immigrants who received or were most likely to need public benefits.

Immigration advocates, who have criticized President Biden’s progress over the past year to reverse his predecessor’s immigration policies, welcomed the announcement. Even as former President Donald J. Trump’s reign came to a halt last year, immigrants hoping for green cards continued to be wary of doing anything they feared to jeopardize their chances of getting them, including go to the hospital or get vaccinated against Covid-19. .

Ongoing fears about the Trump rule have made it “much harder to fight the harms of the pandemic” for immigrants without permanent legal status, said Tanya Broder, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. The Trump administration’s rule went into effect in February 2020, just weeks before the scope of the coronavirus in the United States became clear.

Although the Trump policy hasn’t been in effect for nearly a year, the Biden administration’s new rule would be more resilient to potential legal challenges and harder to reverse by a new administration than the one it issued in March. last, said policy experts. The administration was under a court order to produce new regulations, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

In U.S. immigration law, the idea of ​​public charges has historically applied to people deemed likely to depend primarily on the federal government for survival, such as through public cash assistance or health care. long term institutionalized. Mr Trump’s rule broadened the definition, changing what had been common practice for 20 years, and was seen by many as a way to keep poor immigrants out.

The Trump administration, however, expanded the list of benefits that could make a new immigrant ineligible for permanent residency, adding things like Medicaid, food stamps and subsidized housing. The researchers said the policy caused many families to drop benefit schedules, even though they had children who were U.S. citizens and could use those programs without effecting their immigration claims.

In November 2020, a federal district court ordered the Trump administration to stop enforcing the policy.

Last March, the definition returned to what it was before; the new proposal would continue to use the old wording.

“The 2019 public charge rule was inconsistent with our nation’s values,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement Thursday. “Under this proposed rule, we will revert to the historical understanding of the term ‘public charge’ and individuals will not be penalized for choosing to access health benefits and other additional government services available to them.”

The proposed new rule, which will be open for public comment for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, is “more legally defensible” as it goes through the government’s rule-making process, said Julia Gelatt, chief executive. Politics. analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. It also adds specificity to some of the terms and clauses of an initial 1999 guidance, so less will be left to interpretation, she said.

The Trump rule sparked so much fear in immigrant communities that some people who were not subject to public office regulations began to shun all public benefits.

Supporters said they hope the proposed new rule will make immigrants more comfortable applying for the state benefits to which they are entitled, which may vary by state.

“The upcoming public charge rule is particularly significant given the lasting chilling effect we’ve seen among fearful immigrant communities accessing the benefits to which they are entitled,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, chief executive. of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “Equally important is the outreach that the administration will expand to educate affected communities.”