Dems Ask That Public Charge Rule Not Apply To Immigrant Coronavirus Treatment — It Already Doesn’t

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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A group of House Democrats is asking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) not to penalize green card applicants for seeking medical care for coronavirus, but the government already made clear it wouldn’t.

Thirty-eight House Democrats signed a letter delivered to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Tuesday, asking him to remove any assistance for COVID-19 care as part of the recently-enacted public charge rule. The rule takes into account a migrant’s past use of government-funded assistance when they apply for permanent status.

“We write to urge you to exclude receipt of any COVID-19-related assistance from the public charge determination for applicants seeking admission or an adjustment status,” the letter began.

“During this global COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that everyone, including immigrants, be able to access all forms of assistance to mitigate harm to the public health and economy of the United States,” the lawmakers continued.

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“There is no justifiable reason to penalize immigrants for trying to survive a pandemic,” Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, a co-signer of the letter, tweeted Wednesday.

However, despite the strong demands by Connolly and the other Democratic lawmakers, the government had already made clear that any coronavirus care would not fall under the policy’s purview.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — the DHS agency that manages the country’s legal immigration system and implementation of the public charge rule — released a statement on its website in March encouraging foreign nationals to seek medical care if they suspect they have COVID-19.

“Such treatment or preventive services will not negatively affect any alien as part of a future Public Charge analysis,” USCIS states on its website.

The White House first rolled out the public charge rule in August 2019. Under the plan’s guidelines, a USCIS officer reviewing an applicant’s case will look at their use of public benefits over a 12-month period within any given 36-month period during their time in the U.S.

If an applicant for permanent status, such as a green card applicant, has depended on taxpayer-funded benefits such as food stamps, Section 8, or other benefits, they will likely be denied.

This coronavirus update was made roughly two weeks before the House Democrats delivered their letter to Wolf. While the lawmakers did acknowledge the rule change, they essentially argued it was still confusing for potential applicants to understand and said it was “insufficient.” (RELATED: Trump Administration Extends Delay Of Court Hearings For Asylum Seekers)

“Assurances that applicants may submit explanatory statements and USCIS will ‘take all such evidence into consideration in the totality of the alien’s circumstances’ are wholly inadequate to alleviate the fears of would-be applicants,” the letter continued.

The Democrats would either like a full rescission of the public charge rule, or at least make it more clear to the public that COVID-19 treatment is not related to the rule whatsoever. They have also asked for a response within 15 days.

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