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Discussion Points for Punto Legal –January 29, 2020

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1. Public Charge Rule.

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued an order permitting President Trump’s public charge rule to go into effect. This rule applies to immigrants fixing their papers in the U.S. There is no word yet about how the immigration service intends to implement the rule. A number of new immigration forms will have to be rolled out to implement the rule.

The rule dramatically changes the standard by which the immigration service determines whether an applicant for adjustment of status is “likely at any time to become a public charge” and therefore inadmissible to the United States. The bizarre thing about the rule is its focus on receipt of public assistance by immigrants who were never entitled to the benefits in the first place.

To understand how the new rule will operate, start with the so-called heavily weighted factors. If you have health insurance, or your household has income of at least 250 percent of the poverty line, you have two heavily weighted positive factors and will have no problem immigrating. For example, Jaime and Veronica have one child for a household size of three. Jaime earns $50,000 per year and gets health insurance through his wife’s work. His wife Veronica earns $35,000 per year. Their income is greater than 250% of the poverty line. Jaime has two heavily weighted positive factors and will have no problem immigrating

On the other hand, if the intending immigrant has a medical condition that is likely to require extensive treatment and has no insurance, this is a heavily weighted negative factor. Hector is married to Sara, who just became a U.S. citizen. Hector fell from a ladder in Vail clearing snow from the roof of a hotel two years ago. He is paralyzed from the waist down. Sara makes $15.00 per hour as a housekeeper. Sara wants to fix Hector’s papers. She will have a hard time doing it unless she can get health insurance for Hector.

Once you get past the so-called heavily weighted factors, the immigration service will consider the intending immigrant’s age, health, financial status, credit score, education, skills, and ability to speak English. This the multi-factor test will leave substantial discretion to interviewing officers and could produce inconsistent and unpredictable decision-making.

Along with the new rule comes a burdensome new form, the I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency. This form will require household members to report their total income for tax purposes and their additional income. Intending immigrants will have to provide a credit report; all their education; and occupational skill.

2. New Spanish-speaking criminal defense lawyer.

We have a new Spanish-speaking criminal defense abogado. His name is Brian Roche. Brian is fluent in Spanish. He has seen a lot of criminal cases as a public defender in Denver. And he served as prosecutor in Eagle County. Working as a prosecutor actually makes you a better defense lawyer. Now you can hire a lawyer who is ready to defend you and explain everything to you in Spanish.

3. 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 and probability that the “public charge” rule will come into effect. 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.