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BREAKING: Federal Judge Orders Government to Stop Enforcing Public Charge Rule During Pandemic

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a very important new update regarding the “public charge,” rule. On July 29, a federal judge in the state of New York issued a ruling temporarily blocking the Trump administration from enforcing the public charge rule on noncitizens seeking permanent residency in the United States, as well as nonimmigrant visa applicants abroad, for as long as the coronavirus pandemic remains a public health emergency. The ruling was made in response to a federal lawsuit filed by several states against the government, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in State of New York, et al. v. DHS, et al. and Make the Road NY et al. v. Cuccinelli, et al.

Stay tuned for more information on this topic.


Overview

In response to a lawsuit filed by the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, challenging the “public charge” rule, federal judge George Daniels approved a nationwide injunction, which temporarily blocks the government from “enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating,” as effective the “public charge” rule for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The judge in this case ultimately sided with the states recognizing that the public charge rule ultimately discourages non-citizens nationwide from obtaining the necessary treatment and care they would need during the Coronavirus pandemic. In his opinion, the judge stated that in consideration of the “substantial harm” that the public would suffer from application and enforcement of the public charge rule, it was necessary to issue a temporary injunction to preserve the status quo and allow non-citizens to seek public benefits necessary for their health and well-being. The judge stated, “no person should hesitate to seek medical care, nor should they endure punishment or penalty if they seek temporary financial aid as a result of the pandemic’s impact.”

Finally, the judge chastised the government’s application of the “public charge” rule during the global pandemic stating, “a patchwork public charge framework would only contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”


USCIS Statement

On July 31, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a statement recognizing the impact of the ruling and its stated compliance to discontinue enforcement, application, implementation, and treatment of the “public charge,” rule known as “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” against noncitizens and visa applicants alike during any period in which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.


Will USCIS apply the Public Charge Rule?

No. For as long as the July 29, 2020 ruling remains in effect, USCIS will not apply the February 2020 “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule,” for as long as the declared national health emergency remains in place, but will apply the 1999 public charge guidance policies that were in place before the “public charge” final rule was implemented on February 20, 2020.


I-539 Applications Received On or After July 29th will not be Subject to Public Charge Rule

In addition, USCIS will adjudicate any application or petition for extension of nonimmigrant stay or change of nonimmigrant status received on or after July 29, 2020, consistent with regulations in place before the “public charge” final rule was implemented; in other words, USCIS will not apply the public benefit condition.


Applications and Petitions Received On or After July 29th will not be Subject to Public Charge Rule

Finally, for applications and petitions that USCIS adjudicates on or after July 29, 2020, pursuant to the SDNY injunction, USCIS will not consider any information provided by an applicant or petitioner that relates to the Public Charge Rule, including information provided on the Form I-944, or information on the receipt of public benefits in Part 5 on Form I-539, Part 3 on Form I-539A or Part 6 on Form I-129.


Applications Postmarked On or After July 29th SHOULD NOT include Form I-944

Applicants and petitioners whose applications or petitions are postmarked on or after July 29, 2020, should not include the Form I-944 or provide information about the receipt of public benefits on Form I-485, Form I-129, or Form I-539/I-539A.

USCIS will issue guidance regarding the use of affected forms. In the interim, USCIS will not reject any Form I-485 on the basis of the inclusion or exclusion of Form I-944, nor Forms I-129 and I-539 based on whether Part 6, or Part 5, respectively, has been completed or left blank.

USCIS will issue guidance regarding the use of affected forms. In the interim, USCIS will not reject any Form I-485 on the basis of the inclusion or exclusion of Form I-944, nor Forms I-129 and I-539 based on whether Part 6, or Part 5, respectively, has been completed or left blank.


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