Explained: US Supreme Court allows Trump’s new Green Card policy, what it means

US green card rules explained, US green card policy changes, Public charge rule US immigration, Express Explained

The new Green Card policy, announced in August 2019, expands the meaning of the term “public charge”, thus significantly impacting legal immigration to the US.

On Monday, the US Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to move forward with the much-debated new immigration rules that could make it harder for poor immigrants to obtain a Green Card — lawful permanent resident status.

The new Green Card policy, announced in August 2019, expands the meaning of the term “public charge”, thus significantly impacting legal immigration to the US. Despite the apex court verdict, the policy continues to face challenges in other courts in the country.

What is a “public charge” under US immigration rules?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines “public charge" as “an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” Immigration officers can deny a Green Card on “public charge” grounds.

The programs which originally fell under the “public charge” definition included Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, state and local General Assistance programs and long-term care programs.

The Trump administration's new rule widens the definition of who is expected to be dependent on the government by including more welfare programs, such as Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers in the “public charge” list. It also makes a significant interest in family and individual income criteria and takes into consideration past use of benefits as well.

Critics have alleged that the move has a racial bias, as it would target immigrants from developing countries while prioritising more affluent applicants from the global North. The rule is also criticised for its possible long term impact on the United States, as legal immigrants already residing in the country would now be fearful of availing essential services.

Indians in Green Card statistics

In 2017, India-born immigrants in the US got the fourth-highest number of Green Cards, after applicants from Mexico, China, and Cuba.

Of the 60,394 persons born in India who obtained a Green Card that year, a third (20,549) were immediate relatives of US citizens, a fourth (14,962) were family sponsored, and over a third (23,569) were employed in the US. The remainder were given this status under the Diversity Immigrant Visa, refugee, asylee and other categories.