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Will President Biden Revoke the Public Charge Rule?

A national emblem of USA, immigration

Among other reversals of Trump-era policies, President Joe Biden may revoke the public charge rule. A review of the rule was officially ordered in February. The rule has been widely criticized for leading many immigrants to disenroll from Medicaid and other public programs.

Ordering a Review of the Public Charge Rule

In early February, President Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies to conduct a review of Trump-era immigration policies impacting access to healthcare for immigrants, known as the public charge rule. Specifically, the public charge rule enables the federal government to deny immigrants entry into the U.S. or citizenship if they’re currently enrolled in public programs such as Medicaid.

The executive order also rescinded a memorandum necessitating repayment to the government from family sponsors if relatives are receiving public benefits.

What Exactly Is the Public Charge Rule?

The public charge rule was first introduced as part of the Immigration Act of 1882. It’s a test used for determining ineligibility for residency or immigration status, but the rule has rarely been used. Consulates abroad could use the rule to determine whether an individual is likely to become dependent on public benefits, while the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can use it to deny green cards to individuals who are deemed financially unreliable.

USCIS can use the rule to deny green cards to any immigrants who have previously used Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplement Security Income, Section 8 Housing or Rental Assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or Medicaid. This has scared many immigrants into disenrolling from these programs.

Critics of the public charge rule have claimed that it functions as a wealth test that prevents immigrants from entering the U.S. based on unreasonable standards. Since the early 20th century, the rule has been rarely used. Former President Donald Trump implied that he would reimplement the rule in 2017, which led many immigrants to avoid public programs that they believed might hurt their chances at citizenship.

The Effects of the Rule

Many healthcare experts have been opposed to the public charge rule and the Trump administration’s reintroduction of it. One organization pushing to rescind the public charge rule has been the American Hospital Association (AHA), which labeled the rule as one of multiple “ongoing critical challenges” in its priority policies outline for President Biden.

The use of the rule under the Trump administration was expected to cause up to 4.7 million noncitizens to disenroll from CHIP and Medicaid, according to one Kaiser Family Foundation report. As a result, uninsured rates increased among immigrant families to reduce their access to adequate healthcare and subsequently worsened health outcomes. In addition to hurting immigrants, a drop in enrollment in Medicaid and other public programs could adversely affect healthcare safety net providers, preventing them from treating all members of their communities and decreasing revenue.

Although the public charge rule isn’t invoked in times of national crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, many immigrants are unfamiliar with the specifics of the rule. Subsequently, many immigrants who qualified for public benefits through gainful employment declined to access them.

Previous Efforts to Block the Rule

The Trump administration rolled out the public charge rule in August 2019, at which point multiple lower courts blocked it. Then, on January 27, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court enabled the implementation of Public Charge: New Ethical Considerations for Adjustment Cases on February 24, as the pandemic began its spread throughout the country.

In November 2020, Cook County v. Wolf resulted in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals blocking the rule, while now-Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett issued the dissenting opinion that immigrants need to prove that they are financially independent. A month later, the City and County of San Francisco v. USCIS culminated in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocking the rule across California and 14 other states.

Now in 2021 under the new administration, the public charge rule is more likely to be reversed, which the AHA and other critics of the rule are applauding. Of the review, AGA General Counsel Melinda Hatton stated, “We appreciate the administration’s review of this misguided policy and look forward to its reversal.”

Encouraging Immigrants to Enroll in Public Programs

With the reversal of the public charge rule, the hope among AHA and others is that immigrants won’t disenroll from public programs out of fear of potential repercussions, including removal or deportation. While the public charge rule wasn’t likely to lead to many immigrants’ denied entry into or citizenship in the U.S., the specifics of the rule were unclear to many. As more people enroll in public programs, they will access the benefits they need, and revenue for local medical practices is likely to increase as they’re able to treat more residents in the area with compensated care.

Immigration Restrictions Extended

visa stamp

Before the end of Donald Trump’s term as President, his administration extended restrictions on legal immigration along with visas enabling immigrants to temporarily work in the U.S. The administration made the move hours before the restrictions were set to end, extending them through March 31, a little over two months into President Biden’s term.

Final Trump-Era Restrictions on Immigration

The extension of the restrictions was among the last of the Trump administration’s acts, amid a focus on restricting legal immigration that took place throughout Trump’s term. The move is one of many based on the administration’s core premise that immigrants are taking jobs from Americans.

The Trump administration’s restrictions spanned from an early travel ban on several predominantly Muslim nations to an immigration proclamation that targeted immigrants seeking legal migration to the U.S. as of April 2020. That latter proclamation was initially extended in June and went from covering legal immigration to covering some guest worker visas.

While the Trump administration claimed that the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic inspired the more recent restriction extensions, this claim was contradictory to the administration’s other claims that the country had begun to recover from the pandemic. The extension also counters Trump’s claims that the U.S. economy had grown and that the unemployment rate was destined to lower.

The Future of Immigration in the U.S. Under a New Administration

The extension will expire on March 31, leaving many immigrants wondering how the next administration will handle immigration. Soon following his inauguration, President Joe Biden began reversing many Trump-era policies.

In January, the Biden administration signed a number of immigration orders, including an order that repealed Trump’s Muslim ban. In addition, immigration advocates are calling on the President to put an end to the recent extensions and other policies, including a policy separating families at the border.

In February, Biden addressed the latter issue by introducing a task force that would work to reunite immigrant children with their families. However, many advocates are still calling for more action from Biden to help legal immigrants, and the Biden administration has yet to address the extensions.

Over time, it’s expected that the Biden administration will continue to reverse Trump’s policies, including the proclamations extended in December. It’s predicted that once the extensions expire on March 31, the Biden administration will simply let the policies expire.

What Chicago Immigrants Should Know About the “Uninsured Ban”

Two feet standing on each side of a yellow line

The U.S. Court of Appeals recently upheld the Trump administration’s “uninsured ban,” which prevents immigrants from entering the country without “approved” health insurance. There are several details that immigrants in Chicago should know about the uninsured ban and how it may affect them.

What Is the Uninsured Ban?

The uninsured ban is an extension of 8 U.S.C. § 1182(f), which is a provision that enables the president to prevent immigrants from entering the country under the belief that they may compromise the interests of the United States. Specifically, the uninsured ban could prevent immigrants from entering the country if they don’t have an “approved” insurance plan that a government subsidy supports.

An “approved” healthcare plan is one that falls outside of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which the Trump administration has notoriously opposed. While the ACA was intended to provide extensive coverage for people enrolled in the program and promote improved health with reduced long-term costs, the Trump administration implemented cheaper bare-bones plans that reduce costs through minimal coverage. As a result, many “approved” healthcare plans provide coverage only for particularly serious health conditions and not preventive care, such as routine checkups with doctors.

How the Uninsured Ban Makes It Harder to Gain Entry

Because of the definition of an “approved” plan under the uninsured ban, the ban prevents many from entering the U.S. who would otherwise qualify for visas, including sponsored spouses, other family members of U.S. citizens, and lawful permanent residents. The reason for this is many people working at minimum wage jobs don’t receive insurance coverage from employers. Subsequently, it’s extremely difficult for these citizens to sponsor family members unless those relatives can afford an “approved” plan.

Attempts to Reverse the Ban

Although many challengers argued against the uninsured ban because of its restrictive nature, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit still upheld the uninsured ban on December 31. Since more than 180 days have passed since the date the ban became effective on November 3, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be responsible for determining whether the ban is still required.

As of January, a new administration is in place under President Joe Biden, who may be able to reverse the ban in the near future in addition to other Trump-era policies surrounding immigration.

Attention DACA Applicants: There May Be Hope Yet

shadow on a brickwall showing a girl walking with her suitcase

As of the beginning of 2021, over 170 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applicants have been approved by the federal government, giving many other applicants hope. The approved applicants were among those who applied for the Obama-era program before the Trump administration ended it in 2017.

What a New DHS Report Reveals

In early January, a report submitted to Brooklyn federal court by the Department of Homeland Security disclosed the approval of 171 new DACA applications taking place from November 14 to the end of 2020. Meanwhile, the DHS denied another 121 applications and rejected 369. The report also revealed that a total of 2,713 applications were submitted awaiting approval, denial, or rejection.

In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that Trump was in violation of federal law when ending the DACA program in 2017. Regardless, Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf stated that the Trump administration would both cease accepting new applications and shorten renewals from two years to one.

Later in the year, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis reasoned that Trump’s cessation of the DACA program was unconstitutional and ordered the federal government to begin accepting DACA applications that entered the system before the program ended.

In addition, Garaufis argued that Wolf took his position through illicit means and ordered the reinstatement of the two-year renewals. Garaufis also ordered DHS to report the number of new applicants who were rejected throughout the year from June to December. The released report revealed that 4,383 applications were rejected during that period.

Approved Renewals Along with New Applications

In light of the DHS report, it was revealed that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services branch of the department approved 61,844 renewals within the last six weeks of 2020. However, the USCIS also denied 326 applications and rejected another 2,842 in that time.

The Background of the DACA Program

The DACA program began in 2012 when the Obama administration put it in place to protect approximately 800,000 young immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children. While the program didn’t grant these children, also known as DREAMers, official legal status or a direct path to U.S. citizenship with their families, it enabled them to make a living in the U.S. Specifically, the program allowed DREAMers to apply for social security numbers, work permits, and driver’s licenses.

Early on, the Trump administration attempted to dismantle the DACA program, ending it in 2017.

Efforts to Reinstate the DACA Program After the Trump Era

With President Joe Biden in office, the new administration has pledged to reinstate the DACA program in January. This is one of many attempts to reverse Trump-era policies that Biden promised to enact. However, with the reinstatement of the DACA program, Congress would still need to approve permanent legal status and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who wish to become naturalized citizens.

What Is Required to Apply for DACA?

If people were unable to apply for the DACA program during Trump’s presidency, they may be able to apply in the near future with Biden’s reinstatement. If new applicants want to qualify, there are several criteria that they will need to meet. These requirements include:

  • Unlawful entry into the U.S. before the age of 16
  • Aged 30 or younger on June 15, 2012, (i.e. born on June 16, 1981, or later)
  • Did not have any lawful status on June 15, 2012
  • Were physically within the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and when requesting consideration for DACA through USCIS
  • Have lived in the U.S. and no other country since June 15, 2007

Other requirements include completion of high school or a GED program, honorable discharge from the U.S., armed forces, or current enrollment in a U.S. school. Applicants must not have felony convictions or serious misdemeanors, nor can they have three or more other misdemeanors.

When applying for the DACA program, it’s necessary to have all required supporting documents present. Documents include proof of identity in the form of a state-issued ID, passport, military or school ID, or birth certificate. Applicants must also have proof of entry into the U.S. before the age of 16, which may include a stamped passport, INS documents, Form I-94, or any other travel, school, hospital, or medical records. 

Other supporting documents include proof of presence in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, proof of no lawful status on June 15, 2012, documents that prove brief and innocent trips outside of the U.S. since 2007, and proof of current or previous education.

New applicants can visit the USCIS website for additional information about requirements and how to apply if and when the program is reinstated. The DHS report and a new presidential era leave many young immigrants hoping for a brighter future.

How to Check USCIS Processing Times Online

Closeup of a computer on desk

It’s now possible to check the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing times online through the USCIS website, providing applicants with a convenient resource to better understand the processing times for their cases. To use the new system, applicants simply need to enter their form number along with the office processing their case.

What Is the Case Processing Time?

Applicants can now check their case processing times via the USCIS website by simply entering the form number and the corresponding office handling the case. The USCIS processing time is the period of time it takes for the agency to process any type of case from the date the agency received the application. 

USCIS processes each case monthly based on when it’s received, and the processing time displayed is derived from data gathered over the previous two months. To help improve the accuracy, comprehensibility, and timeliness of case processing time postings, USCIS has been testing a new calculation method for developing case times for many forms.

How to Understand Processing Times

Individuals can check processing times for forms such as those used for petitioning immigrant relatives. USCIS displays processing times as a range. The first number in the range is the median amount of time needed for the completion of half of the cases. The second number displayed is the time needed to complete a majority (93%) of cases.

According to USCIS, processing times for cases are based on data analyzed from the previous month unless the “notes” section for the form specifies otherwise. USCIS tries to update most processing times every month to keep them consistently up-to-date.

The agency calculates processing times based on the data collected from previously completed cases and is unable to project the amount of time it will take to complete cases from the moment of filing.

How to Find the Information on the Form to Enter Online

When checking processing times online, applicants can reference the details on their forms and enter them on the USCIS website. The form number is the first item that’s needed, which is visible at the top of the form in the box labeled “Form Type” or “Case Type.” The other detail needed is the office, which will be listed at the bottom of the form.

Checking processing times online can enable applicants to accurately determine how long it will likely take to complete their immigration cases.