New York Attorney General Leticia James wrote a letter to the federal government, asking that it delays implementation of its Public Charge Rule as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The new Public Charge Rule that went into effect in February of this year, denies green card and other visa applicants from being approved if it is believed at any time in the future they are likely to use certain public benefits or subsidies such as Section 8 housing or SNAP.
James' office said this new rule will discourage immigrants from accessing health insurance or medical care.
“Every person who doesn’t get the health coverage they need today risks infecting another person tomorrow,” James said.
Federal law allows lawful immigrants to apply for public benefits if they have been in the country for five years, but if they use this public assistance, then under this new rule they would jeopardize their chances of renewing their visa or becoming a permanent resident.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sought to suspend the rule as infections increased, but James says the alert contradicted itself. This is why she says that the federal government needs to suspend the rule for now.
“It is imperative that DHS at least make clear that enrollment in Medicaid and the use of Medicaid benefits for any reason will not be considered in the public charge assessment," James said. "Given that these benefits were not considered in the public charge assessment for many years prior to DHS’s recent change of policy, it is inexplicably harmful for the agency to begin counting them now, during the outbreak of a lethal global pandemic."