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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Changes to the “Public Charge” Test Will Impact Who Can Enter the U.S. and Who Will be Eligible for a Green Card

Presione aquí para la versión en Español
Peze la pou tradui nan Kreyol Ayisyen

For some immigrants, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will consider whether an immigrant is likely to become a “public charge” when it reviews the immigrant’s request for a visa or green card. A “public charge” is someone who may rely on public benefits for a significant period of time. If USCIS determines an immigrant is likely to become a public charge, it may deny an immigrant’s entry into the United States or their green card application.

The Trump administration recently issued new rules that redefine the term “public charge” in a way that will result in many more people being denied entry or a green card. The new rules will go into effect October 15, 2019 unless legal challenges stop or delay them. It is important for immigrants to understand whether they might be impacted by these new rules.

Catholic Migration Services would like to inform the immigrant community that the new public charge rules does not mean everyone should stop receiving any public benefits that they need for their family. Therefore, before withdrawing from any public benefits you are currently receiving, we encourage you to speak with a trusted immigration attorney.

The New Rule – Who it Applies To:

  • You and your family are green card holders The new public charge rules do not affect you unless you leave the country for more than 6 months.
  • You are in the U.S. and plan to apply for a green card or visa The new public charge rules may affect you.  You should speak with an immigration lawyer to learn more about the possible impact.
  • You or your family plans to apply for a green card or visa from outside the U.S. The new public charge rules may affect you.  You should speak with an immigration lawyer to learn more about the possible impact.
  • You are already a U.S. citizen, DACA recipient, U or T Visa holder, TPS holder, or have SIJS status, or have status as an asylee or refugee, or are applying for any of these statuses  The new rules do not affect you.  Benefits you receive while in this status will not be counted against you in the future if you apply for a green card.

If the new rules affect you, USCIS may count it against you if you use any of the following benefits for a lengthy period: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), state general relief or general assistance, Medicaid institutionalization for long-term care, non-emergency Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and public housing.

The government will not consider receipt of the following types of benefits when determining public charge: emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, national school lunch or school breakfast programs, foster care or adoption, Head Start, Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), WIC, the Earned Income Tax Credit, or the Child Tax Credit.

For Free Help
All immigrants who may apply for an immigration benefit in the future should seek advice about whether receipt of public benefits may impact their ability to apply for that future benefit.  For free assistance, call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Download this advisory as a PDF.

Naturalization Workshop Helps New Yorkers Get Closer to Citizenship

Last month Catholic Migration Services partnered with the New Americans Program at the Queens Public Library (QPL) for a free naturalization workshop in Corona. The workshop was open to eligible legal permanent residents interested in applying for citizenship. Pro bono attorneys, paralegals, and volunteers assisted 23 New Yorkers at the Corona Branch. 

To be eligible for future naturalization workshops, legal permanent residents are required to bring the following documents:

  • Green card and all passports
  • Copy of most recent IRS tax return
  • Marriage certificate or divorce papers (if applicable)
  • Certified court dispositions and MTA dispositions (if applicable)

In addition, if legal permanent residents are eligible for a full or partial fee waiver, individuals will need to provide proof of the benefit that you or an immediate family member (spouse or child) are currently receiving. The appropriate evidence must be in the form of a letter, notice, or other official document. If such eligibility applies, legal permanent residents are required to bring the following documents:

  • SNAP (Food Stamp) Award Letter
  • SSI Award Letter
  • Medicaid Award Letter

The July quarterly naturalization workshop with the Queens Public Library is in collaboration with The New Americans Campaign and Citizenship Works.

Catholic Migration Services Secures Release from ICE of Wrongfully Detained Migrant Fleeing Persecution 

The Removal Defense Project (RDP) recently secured the release of a Central American client who was wrongfully detained in an immigration detention center during a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Upon entering the country, ICE made a clear custody determination to release Javier from their custody while placing him under an Order of Supervision. The Order of Supervision required him and his family to routinely check-in with an ICE Deportation Officer. Despite attending his first ICE check-in and fully complying with his order of supervision, on the day of his second check-in ICE arrested and detained Javier without warning or explanation. 

After spending a month in a county jail which ICE uses to detain immigrants, Javier received a bond hearing to request his release from detention before an immigration judge. At the hearing, ICE produced an official document which falsely stated that Javier did not attend his first check-in and that ICE was revoking his order of supervision and detaining him for his failure to attend that check-in. Javier’s Catholic Migration Services’ attorneys objected to ICE’s introduction of that document and provided the Immigration Court with Javier’s testimony and a different ICE document, which both contradicted the document filed by ICE. As a result, the immigration judge found that ICE’s evidence was unreliable and that Javier presented no flight risk. The immigration judge set the minimum bond amount, $1500.00, which was paid by The New York Immigrant Freedom Fund, a non-profit that pays bonds to free low-income New Yorkers from ICE detention.

Javier had sought help from Catholic Migration Services after suffering persecution and fleeing years of violence at the hands of a transnational criminal organization in his Central American country. When he was a child, Javier’s parents moved to the United States, leaving him in his country in the care of his uncle, who was his caretaker and father figure. Around the age of 13, he witnessed members of a transnational criminal organization murder his uncle during a public soccer game. His uncle’s  killers attempted to murder Javier too, cutting him with a machete and shooting at him as he fled. Fearing for his life and without his uncle’s protection, Javier went into hiding in another part of his country. Over the following years, the transnational criminal organization responsible for murdering his uncle and attempting to murder him tracked him down and threatened his life. The final incident occurred in 2018 when men dressed as police officers came to his home where he lived with his partner and their child. The men threatened to burn Javier and his family inside their home if they didn’t leave. Javier believes that these men were members of the same transnational criminal organization collaborating with corrupt police officers. Upon receiving this threat to their lives, Javier and his family fled from their country seeking asylum in the United States. 

While Javier was in detention, his son Kevin* turned five years old. Kevin told his mother that he would not celebrate his birthday without his father, because he wanted the whole family to be there. The week he was released, Javier and his family celebrated Kevin’s birthday.

Javier will continue to pursue his claim for asylum outside of the detention system with Catholic Migration Services as his representatives.

*Although the stories are real, the names have been changed to protect the privacy of our client.

Workers’ Rights Program Reaches $33,000 Settlement for Domestic Worker in Wage Theft and Harassment Suit

The Workers’ Rights Program won a $33,000.00 settlement for a domestic worker in a case brought under the New York State Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which guarantees basic workplace protections for domestic workers.

Our client, a Mexican national worked as a nanny and domestic worker for over six years. During that time she suffered significant minimum wage and overtime violations, as well as verbal abuse and sexual harassment at the hands of her employer. Catholic Migration Services litigated the case in Queens County Supreme Court with assistance from co-counsel from LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and reached a settlement shortly before trial in April. 

In the words of our client, “I feel very fortunate that I met the lawyers at Catholic Migration Services. They helped me and defended my rights. I am very grateful.” Catholic Migration Services also helped the client obtain a T visa, as a victim of labor trafficking. The visa was approved in September 2017 and will allow her to remain in the United States with work authorization for up to four years, and to apply for permanent residency after three years. 

‘Expedited removal’ policy could affect Queens residents

On Tuesday, the current administration expanded an already existing “expedited removal” policy that could affect thousands of undocumented residents in Queens who may be subject to rapid deportation proceedings without a court appearance. Alexandra Goncalves-Peña, Managing Attorney with the Immigration Program at Catholic Migration Services spoke to the Queens Daily Eagle about the expansion and what this could mean for undocumented immigrants in Queens.

Read the full story in the Queens Daily Eagle: ‘Expedited removal’ policy could affect Queens residents

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: What to do if you are apprehended or detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents

Presione aquí para la versión en Español
Peze la pou tradui nan Kreyol Ayisyen

Last month, President Trump announced that some 2,000 immigrant families with prior removal orders would be apprehended and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in 10 cities throughout the United States. Although it is unclear whether these raids will happen and if so, when, it is important for you to remember that all people have rights in the United States, irrespective of their immigration status and that they can assert these rights. If you believe you may be subject to arrest and detention by ICE we urge you not to panic but to be well prepared.

If ICE raids occur, keep in mind the following points:

  • If you have had prior interaction with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or have a case before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in the past and are unsure whether you have a prior removal order, call the Immigration Court Hotline at: 1-800-898-7180 to find out. Make sure you have your A-number on hand. This is an automated answering system so you do not have to speak with an actual person.
  • Create a Safety Plan and Identify Emergency Contacts: Put together a folder in which to place important information including, among other things: Birth certificates of your children born abroad and in the United States; marriage certificates; your children’s school information; medical and pharmaceutical records for yourself and any of your dependents; copies of old work authorization documents issued to you by the USCIS; copies of applications for immigration relief filed with the Immigration Court or the USCIS as well as any documents given to you by the immigration court, USCIS, or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Also include a list of emergency contacts who can be reached in the event you are taken into custody. If you are working with an attorney currently or have worked with one in the past include their contact information as well. If you can, memorize your emergency contact and attorney’s phone numbers. Share these documents and contact information with a trusted friend or relative.
  • Be Prepared: If you entered the United States without proper documentation and you have resided in the United States for over two years, include the following documents proving that you have lived in the United States for the last 2 years in your folder: Medical records for you and your children; bank statements; receipts; utility bills (including though not limited to telephone, electric, and cable bills); apartment lease agreements; medical insurance information; money transfer receipts (e.g., Sigue or Western Union); any correspondence in your name received while residing in the United States; pictures of you with a date and time stamp taken in the United States in front of notable landmarks (e.g., the Statue of Liberty, the White House, the Brooklyn Bridge, etc.); and any document clearly dated that includes your name or address in the United States. Please remember: All of these documents need to include your name and must be clearly dated. Share these documents and contact information with a trusted friend or relative.
  • Provide your child’s school or daycare with your emergency contact’s name and phone number and provide authorization for the emergency contact to pick up your child.
  • Remain Silent: This right applies to all individuals in the United States no matter their immigration status. You do not have to answer any questions or show any documents to an immigration officer.
  • Do Not Open Doors: ICE cannot come into your home without a warrant signed by a federal judge. Ask for a judicial warrant to be slid under the door. Any document issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not authorize ICE to enter your home.
  • Do Not Sign Anything: In the event you are arrested and detained by ICE do not sign anything given to you by ICE officers before reviewing it with your attorney.
  • Record and Report: If you witness a raid, take note of what happened during the incident. If at all possible do this from a safe distance while not interfering with the enforcement action. Take note of where the arrest took place, what time of day it took place, how many officers were involved, how many people were taken into custody, and if children were present during the arrest.

Please make all reports to the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs at reportraids@moia.nyc.gov.

For immediate emergency assistance, please contact the New Sanctuary Coalition Rapid Response Lines at (903) 884-HELP (4357) and (908) 791-5309.

For help obtaining legal assistance in New York State:

  • Office of New Americans hotline at: 1-800-566-7636
  • Action NYC at: 1-800-354-0365

Please review the following Know Your Rights materials from our allies at:
Rapid Response Toolkit, CLINIC
Know Your Rights Cards, CLINIC
Immigrant Defense Project
New Sanctuary Coalition
American Immigration Lawyers Association

For help obtaining legal representation in New York State, contact the Office of New Americans hotline at 1-800-566-7636.
For immediate emergency assistance, please contact the New Sanctuary Coalition Rapid Response Lines at (903) 884-HELP (4357) and (908) 791-5309.

Download this advisory as a PDF.