U. S. citizens and legal permanent residents can expect to receive a bill for services rendered if a relative they have sponsored must avail of several types of federal public aid, announced President Donald Trump in a memo issued May 23.
“The immigration laws currently require that, when an alien receives certain forms of means-tested public benefits, the government or non-government entity providing the public benefit must request reimbursement from the alien’s financial sponsor,” stated Trump in the memo. “These laws also require that, when an alien applies for certain means-tested public benefits, the financial resources of the alien’s sponsor must be counted as part of the alien’s financial resources in determining both eligibility for the benefits and the amount of benefits that may be awarded.”
“Financial sponsors who pledge to financially support the sponsored alien in the event the alien applies for or receives public benefits will be expected to fulfill their commitment under law,” stated the president, noting that federal agencies were currently “not adequately enforcing” such requirements.
Federal aid is defined by the memo as food stamps — a program known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP — Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and Temporary Aid for Needy Families — TANF.
The memo directs several federal agencies — including Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Agriculture — and the commissioner of Social Security to come up with their own memos as to how they would enforce the current law on sponsorship, which has been on the books since 1997, but seldom acted upon. The agencies must also come up with a framework for “collection procedures” — means by which to obtain reimbursement from sponsors whose family members are relying on federal public aid.
A separate “public charge” rule was placed in the Federal Register last October by the Department of Homeland Security. During a 60-day public comment period, the agency received 210,000 responses, the majority opposing the measure, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. DHS must now review and answer any substantive comments before it publishes a final rule.
Former Obama administration official Doug Rand — founder of boundless.com — believes that once DHS publishes its final rule, it will immediately be litigated and may never actually be implemented.
The president’s memo will also likely never be implemented, Rand told India-West. “This administration wants to punish people who are using programs that Congress says they are eligible for. Trump is building a wall around public benefits,” he said, noting also: “The Trump administration is trying to scare people away from sponsoring family members.”
Legal permanent residents who are in the U.S. and become public charges could be deportable, said Rand. “It’s going to scare all permanent residents.”
Rand said the memo would also affect anyone whom immigration officials determine would be a public charge in the future. Factors such as age, chronic diseases, education, ability to speak English and other determinants could be used to deny visas.
“It looks like a point system; anyone who isn’t middle class or earning above $70,000 per year is never going to get in,” he told India-West.
The president’s memo is going to be difficult to implement, added Rand, noting that federal agencies will have to work in concert to determine whether to send a collection notice to a sponsor. Trying to figure out the cash value of federal aid will also prove difficult, he said.
The definition of federal aid programs used by the public charge rule could be expanded to include Section 8 housing, long-term institutionalization and similar programs, said Rand.
It will take a long time to work the machinery of government, said Rand, adding that the White House knows it’s not going to get this done overnight. However, scaring people into not sponsoring relatives or applying for federal aid is happening already, he said.
“Know that most of this stuff is going to take a while to happen. That said, if you are thinking about changing your status or sponsoring a relative, do it now,” said Rand.