New Rule Protects Noncitizens Who Receive Entitled Health or Other Benefits

On September 8, 2022, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) gave a final verdict on the matter of noncitizens receiving or wishing to enroll in the benefits the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides for adults and low-income families. The rule helps noncitizens to access legally entitled health-related benefits and other supplemental government services without any attendant immigration consequences.

The rule has established through the codification in regulation that the “totality of the circumstances” system authorized by statute and which DHS has long used, that individual factors like the sole use of benefits or a person’s disability will cause a public charge determination.

The last rule addresses noncitizens seeking admission to the US or applying for permanent residency cards from within the country. The DHS will not punish those who access the numerous health-related benefits when evaluating if a noncitizen will probably “become mainly dependent on the state for subsistence.”

The Department of Homeland Security also does not consider non-cash benefits other government agencies give, including food and nutrition support like the Strafford Act-inspired disaster assistance; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); benefits through tax credit or deduction; government pensions; pandemic support and other benefits.

In addition, you do not become automatically ineligible for a green card or admission due to the fact that you have received cash-based benefits such as  Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), among other uses. Instead, the Department will analyze the “totality of the circumstances.”

Xavier Becerra, the HHS Secretary, opines that “people who qualify for the Medicaid, CHIP, and other health-related programs should receive the care they need without fear of negatively affecting their immigration status.” The COVID-19 experience has shown that all hands should be on deck for everyone’s public health to improve.

Also, the Biden-Harris administration asserts that healthcare is a right, not a privilege, which is the new rule. Hence, no one should stop anyone from receiving the deserved healthcare. The new law is a step closer to achieving this lofty goal for numerous CHIP and Medicaid enrollees and their loved ones. The CMS has vowed to give its best to ensure people have access to programs that guarantee their health and safety.

Federal civil rights laws demand that everyone receives fair and just treatment when enrolling in supplemental government services; the process should be free of stigma, discrimination, or bias. The newest rule has put in place mechanisms to safeguard older adults and people with disabilities who are not US citizens. They should freely have access to healthcare. It is about time concerned agencies and institutions ensure the rights of historically marginalized groups are not trampled on.

The new rule rejects stereotypes that individuals with disabilities will most probably become a public charge and in tandem with the civil rights protections that are the core of American values.

The new rule, which is the result of the first action of the Biden-Harris administration, aims at reversing the Trump administration’s 2019 public charge rule, which discouraged many noncitizens from eligible seeking benefits due to fear of complicating their citizenship status. Immigrants applying for or re-registering temporary protected status (TPS), refugees, special immigrant juveniles, trafficking victims, self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), crime victims, and asylees suffered the chilling effects of the previous administration’s public charge rule.

“However, with the announcement of this final rule, the Biden-Harris administration is determined to change the ugly past and to make the programs accessible to all deserving fellows.” says attorney Mario A. Godoy of Godoy Law Office Immigration Lawyers.

The rule becomes effective on December 23, 2022.

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