Green Card Wealth Test Blocked by Judge
August 31, 2020
Many opponents of the green card wealth test were pleased when a federal judge stopped the proposed plan in late July. Although the government has not been halted from using a wealth test to evaluate green card applicants, the move has given non-citizens hope that they will have one less barrier to obtain citizenship.
What is the Green Card Wealth Test?
The green card wealth test, also referred to as the public charge test, was set to take effect in October 2019, but was held off initially due to legal battles. As of late February, the wealth test was to be used to screen out certain non-citizens. However, the upswing of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases put the wealth test on the backburner in terms of importance.
The wealth test denies a path to citizenship to any non-citizen of the U.S. who sought public relief, such as housing assistance, food assistance, or Medicaid for more than 12 months within a period of 36 months. The regulation explains that if a non-citizen is suspected of needing public assistance in the future because of current or expected circumstances, even if it has not happened yet, that person also can be denied a green card. Professionals who study immigration law estimate that the wealth test could negatively impact around 70 percent of those who apply annually for a green card.
A similar wealth test existed for many years before the proposed one. This is not an entirely new hurdle for non-citizens and immigration lawyers, although the original wealth test was more strictly defined. As such, fewer than one percent of those who applied for green cards were denied on wealth-related or public assistance-related grounds. Therefore, it was not considered a serious threat to the majority of legal non-citizens seeking green cards until the current Trump administration changed the rules to cover a wider swath of people.
Why are Green Card Wealth Tests Opposed?
Those opposed to the green card wealth test argue that it discriminates against non-citizen minorities who are legally entitled to public assistance. They also claim that if the green card wealth test becomes full-fledged regulation, non-citizens may decline public assistance they need out of fear. Opponents are particularly vocal about their worries that amid the pandemic, low income non-citizens will not be tested for COVID-19 because of concerns that going to a medical facility or seeking treatment will go against obtaining a green card.
Similarly, non-citizens who lose their jobs may not want to accept public welfare assistance out of fear that they will never become citizens. Opponents of the wealth test have brought up the possibility that the test is racially motivated and leaves too much open to interpretation, such as whether an individual will need public assistance based on employment status or English language fluency.
Since the moment information about the wealth test was released to the public in 2019, advocates for non-citizens seeking citizenship have brought legal challenges against it. The legal challenges have come from all over the country. At least one Supreme Court judge has gone on record saying that the outcry against the wealth test has been appropriate for the significance of the situation. Nevertheless, it was the Supreme Court that upheld the validity of the wealth test in January, paving the way for the new regulation to go into effect just one month later.
The Future of the Wealth Test
After the outbreak of COVID-19, talk about the wealth test died down publicly. However, many states used the pandemic as a prime opportunity to continue to sue the government. The federal judge who issued the recent July ruling noted that the wealth test could impede the health and wellness of the nation if it went forward. The judge also noted that the wealth test worked against citizenship for individuals from other countries.
At this point, the Trump administration has not yet filed an appeal against the July court decision. Government entity officials charged with working with non-citizens have said they will accept the court’s ruling. However, the U.S. government is expected to appeal the results of the court at a later date, which means the wealth test could be reinstituted eventually. In the meantime, non-citizens can still apply for green cards and visas, regardless if they received or plan to receive public assistance. It is unclear how long the appeals process may take, or whether the administration would be successful in removing the injunction against the wealth test.
Should Non-Citizens be Tested for COVID-19?
Any non-citizen who believes he or she may have contracted COVID-19 should feel at ease about getting tested and, if needed, treated for the condition. Symptoms of COVID-19 tend to mimic those of the flu, such as fever, dry cough, chills, and exhaustion. Additionally, those with COVID-19 have said that they lost the ability to smell and taste and experienced abdominal problems, chest pain, and headaches. Local COVD-19 testing centers have been set up around the country and should be accessible to everyone. Because of the seriousness of the pandemic, hospitals and medical centers are not requiring patients to pay out of pocket for the cost of treatment, even if it requires hospitalization.
When Should Non-Citizens Seek a Green Card?
Any non-citizen who wants to apply for a green card should feel free to do so without concern about their history with public assistance or their employment status. Many are unemployed because of the pandemic. The courts and public sentiment have shown a recent shift toward protecting the rights of non-citizens, especially during the recent outbreak. Consequently, any non-citizen who waited to apply for a green card may want to contact an immigration lawyer to discuss their options.
Vineland Immigration Lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC Assist Those Applying for Green Cards
If you considered applying for a green card, contact our Vineland immigration lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC today. To get started, call us at 215-496-0690 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we represent clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.