On August 12, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a final rule that changes how the federal government screens immigrants who might become dependent on government services. According to the 837-page rule, agencies may deny immigrants a visa or a green card if they have used food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, or other public benefits.
Per an earlier 1999 guidance document, only public cash assistance or long-term institutionalization at government expense counted as evidence that an immigrant was at risk of being a public charge. Prior to the new rule, agencies could deny immigrants continued legal status if they determined that the immigrants were likely to rely on public benefits. The new rule amends the 1999 guidance to expand the factors agencies may consider when deciding those cases.
Guidance is a term in administrative law used to describe a variety of documents created by government agencies to explain, interpret, or advise interested parties about rules, laws, and procedures. Guidance documents clarify and affect how agencies administer regulations and programs. However, they are not legally binding in the same way as rules issued through one of the rulemaking processes of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
In this case, the agencies followed informal procedures and issued the immigration rule after announcing a proposal and giving the public a chance to offer feedback. The agencies scheduled the rule to go into effect in October, 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.