Discussion Points for Punto Legal –April 08, 2020
1. ICE Enforcement.
Let me read to you an official announcement from ICE: “To ensure the welfare and safety of the general public as well as officers and agents in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will temporarily adjust its enforcement. ICE’s highest priorities are to promote life-saving and public safety activities.
“ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) will focus enforcement on public safety risks and individuals subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds. For those individuals who do not fall into those categories, ERO will exercise discretion to delay enforcement actions until after the crisis or utilize alternatives to detention, as appropriate.”
2. Are you going to get stimulus money?
On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion dollar economic recovery package. The CARES Act provides for the issuance of one-time payments, called recovery rebates, (or commonly known as “stimulus checks”) to help individuals recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible individuals with an adjusted gross income up to $75,000 can receive a one-time payment of $1,200. Married couples filing a joint tax return are eligible to receive a payment of $2,400, as long as their adjusted gross income is less than $150,000. Eligible individuals can also receive an additional $500 for each eligible child under the age of 17.
Work-authorized immigrants living in the United States, including many DACA and TPS recipients, will be able to qualify for the recovery rebates because they have SSNs and are resident aliens for tax purposes. Immigrants who do not have SSNs-including unlawfully present immigrants who pay taxes using individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs)-are not eligible for the rebates. Unfortunately, the CARES Act denies the rebate to an eligible individual with a Social Security number if the individual filed a joint return with a spouse who has an ITIN, or filed a return with a qualifying child who has an ITIN.
3. Can you get unemployment benefits?
Unemployment benefits are complicated because there is interplay between state and federal checkbooks. The first point is if you are a permanent resident, you can get unemployment benefits. And, some immigrants who are not permanent residents may be able to get unemployment benefits. If you are work authorized and authorized under state law to receive unemployment benefits, you should seek unemployment benefits. Immigrants with deferred action, that is DACA recipients and some people who are waiting for a U visa, are specifically authorized under Colorado law to receive unemployment benefits.
4. COVID-19 Benefits and the Public Charge Rule.
I want to answer some questions about COVID-19 benefits and the public charge rule:
1. Will getting tested, treatment or preventative care for COVID-19 impact your immigration application under the public charge rule?
The immigration service has announced that it will not consider “testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19” as part of a public-charge determination even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits (e.g., federally funded Medicaid). USCIS is encouraging anyone with symptoms that resemble COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath) to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services. USCIS has said that such treatment or preventive service “will not negatively affect any alien as part of a future public charge analysis.”
2. Will obtaining unemployment insurance impact my client’s immigration application under the public charge rule?
Unemployment insurance payments are not generally taken into consideration by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for purposes of making a public charge determination. The Department of Homeland Security has said officially “DHS would not consider unemployment benefits as public benefits under the public charge inadmissibility determination as these are considered to be earned benefits through the person’s employment.
3. Will receiving a recovery rebate under the CARES Act impact my client’s immigration application under the public charge rule?
On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion dollar economic recovery package. The package offers relief to state and local governments, individuals, small and large businesses, and hospitals affected by the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In particular, the CARES Act provides for the issuance of one-time payments, called recovery rebates, (or commonly known as “stimulus checks”) to help individuals recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible individuals with an adjusted gross income up to $75,000 can receive a one-time payment of $1,200. Married couples filing a joint tax return are eligible to receive a payment of $2,400, as long as their adjusted gross income is less than $150,000. Eligible individuals can also receive an additional $500 for each eligible child under the age of 17.
The recovery rebates are structured as automatically advanced tax credits to be disbursed by the Treasury Department. The public charge rule is clear that tax credits are not taken into account for the purpose of a public charge determination.
5. COVID-19 Closures
· As a result of the corona virus, the immigration court in downtown Denver is shut down and all hearings have been postponed. The immigration court in ICE jail in Aurora is hearing immigration bond cases. The immigration service in Denver and the application support centers in Grand Junction and Aurora are also closed. If you have an interview, it will be rescheduled. If you need to renew your work authorization, the immigration service will not require you to get new biometrics. They will use your old photo.
· U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and all U.S. consulates in Mexico have suspended routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services until further notice.
· The border with Mexico is closed for routine border crossing.
· ICE enforcement has been curtailed.
· In the Eagle courts, all appearances and hearings have been postponed. There is an exception for bail hearings and hearings necessary for public safety. In Garfield County, it is business as usual unless you have flu-like symptoms, in which case you are asked to call the court.
6. Spanish-speaking criminal defense lawyer.
We have a Spanish-speaking criminal defense lawyer in our office. His name is Brian Roche. Brian lives in Eagle County. Brian saw a lot of criminal cases as a public defender in Denver. And he served as prosecutor in Eagle County. We would like you to hire us for criminal cases in Eagle County and Garfield County. If we go to trial, both Brian and I handle the case in front of a jury. Now you can hire a lawyers who are ready to defend you and explain everything to you in Spanish.
7. Tips for New Year.
Number 1. If you can fix you papers in the United States, that is, adjust your status to lawful permanent resident, do it quickly. You may be able to beat the $1000 fee increase. Number 2. If you have DACA, renew your DACA for another two years to stay ahead of a Supreme Court decision allowing President Trump to end DACA. If you have El Salvador TPS and a citizen spouse or 21-year-old child, travel to El Salvador with an advance travel permit so that you can fix your papers in the United States.