May 26, 2021

The Public Charge Ruling and Its Effects On Clients

Public Charge

Definition: “‘Public charge’ is a ground of inadmissibility. Grounds of inadmissibility are reasons that a person could be denied a green card, visa, or admission into the United States. In deciding whether to grant some applicants a green card or a visa, an immigration officer must decide whether that person is likely to become dependent on certain government benefits in the future, which would make them a ‘public charge.’ It is not a test that applies to everyone, not even to all those applying for green cards.”

Immigration officers use the idea of a “public charge” when determining if someone could become dependent on government benefits at some point in time. Applicants of green cards, visas or admission into the United States may participate in some government programs and not be considered a public charge.

History of Public Charge

In 2019, “legal immigrants who have received public benefits such as SSI (supplemental security income), TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Medicaid, and public housing assistance for more than a total of twelve months within any 36-month period may be classified as a ‘public charge’ [and] ineligible for permanent residency” (Wikipedia). However, on March 9th, 2021 this ruling changed and immigrants are no longer unable to seek out SSI, TANF, SNAP, Medicaid, and public housing assistance. In other words, clients will not be considered a “public charge” if they choose to use these programs and participating in these programs will not be used against immigrants if pursuing residency.

Barriers for Immigrant Survivors

Immigrant survivors may face unique barriers when trying to leave an abusive relationship or access services. They may come across barriers such as language and residency status. For example, if a survivor doesn’t speak the language where they are living, it creates a barrier of finding resources in their own language or finding someone who they trust to help them in their own language. Immigrant survivors also face other common abusive tactics such as financial, physical, isolation, sexual, psychological and many more.

Public Charge and Domestic Violence

The March 9th, 2021 public charge ruling is important because immigrant survivors may use government programs which could help them escape their abuser and be financially independent. An immigrant survivor faces unique barriers and challenges such as language, and residency status, both of which could be used against them by an abuser. By having separate funds and using government programs, survivors may be able to more easily leave their abuser and live on their own.

By: Emily Stohr

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