Public charge policy changes could severely reduce green cards

The administration’s proposed public charge policy could reduce the awarding of green cards (now about one million a year) by several hundred thousand, per analysis by the Kaiser Foundation.

On October 10, the Trump Administration published proposed rules which would greatly expand the criteria under which applicants for a green card would be denied due to public charge rules. The expansion is complicated, a comparison with existing rules is here. The comment period for new rule ended December 10.

The proposed rule would expand the programs that the federal government would consider in public charge determinations to include previously excluded health, nutrition, and housing programs, including Medicaid. It also identifies characteristics DHS could consider as negative factors that would increase the likelihood of someone becoming a public charge, including having income below 125% of the federal poverty level (FPL) ($25,975 for a family of three as of 2018).

Who is affected by the public charge standard?

The proposed rule would directly affect noncitizens seeking to obtain LPR status. DHS data show that 1.1 million individuals obtained LPR status in 2017, including about 550,000 living within the U.S. who adjusted to LPR [green card] status and about 580,000 who entered the U.S. as a new arrival. About 380,000 of the 550,000 individuals who adjusted to LPR status within the U.S. did so through a pathway that would likely be subject to a public charge determination. Some groups, including refugees and asylees, are exempt from public charge determinations.

How many of these people without a green card could be barred under the proposed rules?

Nearly all (94%) noncitizens who entered the U.S. without LPR status have at least one characteristic that DHS could potentially weigh negatively in a public charge determination under the proposed rule. The most common characteristics that DHS could consider negative factors are a household size of three or more (78%), no private health coverage (59%), and no high school diploma (40%). In addition, over one-third (34%) have income below the 125% FPL standard the proposed rule would establish. Just over one in four (26%) are enrolled in a public program that the rule identifies as a public benefit.

Over four in ten (42%) noncitizens who originally entered the U.S. without LPR status have characteristics that DHS could consider a heavily weighted negative factor …. current enrollment in a public benefit (26%), not being employed and not a full-time student (and aged 18 or older) (27%), and having a disability that limits the ability to work and lacking private health coverage (3%).

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