A U.S. federal appeals court struck down a rule yesterday that would make it harder for immigrants who rely on public benefits to be approved for visas or green cards. Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School and co-author of a leading 21-volume immigration law series, says the rule amounts to a wealth test and makes it more difficult for working class people to immigrate.

Yale-Loehr says: “The decision joins several other courts in striking down the new ‘public charge’ rule as violating longstanding interpretations of immigration law. The Trump administration will certainly ask the Supreme Court to stay the decision. It remains to be seen whether the incoming Biden administration will reverse course on this important immigration issue.

“Immigrants applying for a green card must prove they are not likely to become a ‘public charge.’ Since 1999, this has required immigrants to prove that they will not become primarily dependent on certain cash welfare programs. A new rule that took effect in February added certain non-cash benefits like food stamps and Medicaid to the list of public benefits that can lead to someone being deemed a public charge. 

“It also removed the requirement that someone become ‘primarily dependent’ on benefits. Instead, immigration officials can deem someone a public charge if they use any of those benefits for 12 months within the last three years.

“The public charge rule makes it harder for working class people to immigrate to or stay in the United States. It is effectively a wealth test. The incoming Biden administration should reverse the Trump administration’s interpretation of what constitutes a public charge.”