On February 2, 2021, President Biden issues an Executive Order directing the secretary of State (DOS), the attorney general (DOJ), the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) and the heads of other relevant agencies to review all agency actions related to implementation of the public charge ground of inadmissibility and deportability.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implemented the public charge rule on February 24, 2020 expanding the definition of “public charge” as it applies to immigrants legally seeking to enter the United States or adjusting their legal status (green card status). For people entering the country, there has been a test of whether an individual legally entering the country will become a public charge to the country based on the use of particular human service supports. Under the new rule, the Administration will now consider the use of health care, housing, and nutrition programs as a potential sign that a person will become a public charge.
The executive order stated that in “restoring faith in our legal immigration system and promote integration of new Americans will require agencies to establish a holistic review of recent regulations, policies, and guidance that have created barriers to the immigration system. This order will reverse the previous administration’s memorandum, which required family sponsors to repay the government if relatives receive public benefits.”
The Executive Order does not directly rescind or replace the public charge rules, but instead holds DOS, DHS, DOJ, accountable to review the policy and identify and take appropriate actions within 60 days. In a time of
“Children in families of immigrants benefit when they have access to programs and services that help meet their basic needs and promote their development. Children are inherently dependent upon their parents for emotional, physical, and material support. Penalizing parents who are immigrants for using publicly funded health, nutrition, and housing programs—for which they are legally eligible—may also result in children losing these services. In addition, parents’ own health and well-being affects their ability to meet children’s needs.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the combination of all of these collective policies, rules and regulations, enforcement actions and threats from the Trump Administration caused many immigrant families to stop making use of benefits despite their eligibility for them because of fear they will lose legal status. This becomes even more dangerous during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now more than ever as we face this public health crisis action is needed to ensure that immigrant families are not discouraged from testing and care and vaccination. CWLA will continue advocacy efforts to ensure that the Biden Administration repeal the new rule on what is a “public charge.”