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This summer, the Trump administration issued a controversial new rule that would have imposed new financial standards on immigrants who are seeking lawful permanent residency (green cards). The rule reinterprets a policy against immigrants who are likely to become a "public charge" which has been in place for over 100 years.

Under the new rule, when immigrants applied for green cards, several economic factors would be held against them. For example, earning less than 125% of the federal poverty level would weigh against an immigrant's green card application. Other factors include:

  • Having substantial debt
  • Not speaking English
  • Having a disability
  • Accepting public assistance in the form of food stamps, Medicaid or housing assistance (even though it is perfectly legal to do so)

Several immigrant rights advocacy groups, along with three states and New York City, sued the administration, claiming that the rule is not merely a reinterpretation of the longstanding "public charge" policy but a new policy altogether. If it is, the administration is obliged to provide a rational basis for it.

Moreover, the groups claim that the policy is discriminatory against the poor and needy, and based on racism and xenophobia.

On Friday, a federal judge in New York ruled that the administration failed to provide a rational basis for the policy, making it unlawful. The rule was scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 15, but the judge issued a nationwide injunction preventing it from going into place.

"The Rule is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification," the judge wrote. "It is repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility. Immigrants have always come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their posterity. With or without help, most succeed."

Unfortunately, a study by the Urban Institute revealed that in 2018, 1 in 7 adult immigrants decided to forego a legal public benefit out of fear that it would prevent them from getting a green card in the future.

If you are an immigrant and hope to become a lawful permanent resident in the future, contact the Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping immigrants come to the U.S. to stay. We can help you determine if accepting certain public benefits could affect your future prospects for a green card.

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