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Public Charge and Expedited Removal explained

The terms “public charge” and “expedited removal” have been used frequently in recent news, referring to new policies and rules in immigration.  Jamie Englert (pictured), Director of JFCS Immigration Legal Services, recently sat down to clarify what these terms mean and how they could affect immigrants. You can watch her video on Facebook.

Public Charge

“Public charge” refers to a person who primarily depends on public assistance. Potential immigrants must have a sponsor who completes a binding contract with the government that provides if an immigrant experiences financial difficulty; their sponsor will be responsible to support them so they will not become a “public charge.”

Potential immigrants and refugees have always been subject to this rule. The new rule is complicated. With this change, officers additionally review a list of subjective factors to create an assessment of the likelihood that an immigrant will become a public charge.  The new list includes previous use of some public benefits, like Food Stamps and housing subsidies, as reasons why someone can be declared a public charge and denied a green card.The new rule is set to go into effect on October 15, 2019, though there have been multiple court cases filed against it.

Two important facts:
1. Refugees and Asylees and victims visa recipients are not subject to the public charge rule.
2. The public charge rule only applies to adjustment of status (green card) applications.

This change is consequential for two reasons. The first is that upon arriving in a new country, people may indeed need this kind of assistance while they get settled and find jobs, and they are legally entitled to it. The second is that many immigrants who do not qualify for public benefits have citizen children who do qualify and may need Food Stamps, but this rule will dissuade them from applying.

Expedited Removal

“Expedited removal” is what it sounds like. Individuals subject to removal (deportation) are generally entitled to receive a hearing before a judge before they are removed. Expedited removal has always existed for those encountered by CBP (Custom’s and Border Protection) or ICE (Immigration Customs & Enforcement) within 100 miles from US borders and authorizes ICE to carryout immediate removal of ANY immigrant who does not have valid status merely with a supervisor’s signature instead of a hearing with a judge.

With the new rule, permission is expanded to include the entire United States. JFCS Immigration Legal Services advises all non-citizens to carry copies of their documents on them at all times. When detained, it can be difficult to get access to a lawyer or obtain copies of documents.

Beyond the very real consequences, these two changes also increase fear and confusion among the immigrant and refugee communities. JFCS has seen clients afraid to apply for any benefits or immigration applications, even when eligible.

At JFCS, we continue to welcome and support refugees and immigrants. We know many families have escaped war, persecution, gang violence, decades in refugee camps and relentless poverty to come to the U.S. We are grateful that our community understands the valuable contributions newcomers have made here: new business, young families, hard work and cultural richness.

Anyone with questions or in need of further information can call JFCS Legal Immigration Services at 412-521-1737.