US gov’t to deny green cards to immigrants using welfare programs

Robie de Guzman   •   August 13, 2019   •   550

MANILA, Philippines – The administration of US President Donald Trump announced on Monday a new policy that seeks to deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to rely on government public welfare programs such as food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid.

In a news release, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the rule that “clearly defines long-standing law to better ensure that aliens seeking to enter and remain in the United States – either temporarily or permanently – are self-sufficient and rely on their own capabilities and the resources of family members, sponsors and private organizations rather than on public resources.”

The DHS said the final rule revised the definition of “public charge” to incorporate consideration of more kinds of public benefits received, which the Department believes will better ensure that applicants subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground are self-sufficient.

The term “public charge” is defined as an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period.

The rule further defines the term “public benefit” to include any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs.

The new policy amends regulations by prescribing how DHS will determine whether an alien is inadmissible to the United States based on their likelihood of becoming a public charge in the future as set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

It addresses the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to permit an alien to submit a public charge bond in the context of adjustment of status applications.

The rule also makes nonimmigrant aliens who have received certain public benefits above a specific threshold generally ineligible for an extension of stay and change of status.

The regulation also excludes from the public benefits definition those received by individuals who are serving in the Ready Reserve component of the U.S. armed forces, and their spouses and children; those received by certain international adoptees and children acquiring U.S. citizenship; Medicaid for aliens under 21 and pregnant women; Medicaid for school-based services (including services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act); and Medicaid benefits for emergency medical services.

It also makes non-immigrant aliens in the United States who have received designated public benefits above the set threshold ineligible for change of status and extension of stay if they received the benefits after obtaining the non-immigrant status they seek to extend or from which they seek to change, the agency said.

“For over a century, the public charge ground of inadmissibility has been part of our nation’s immigration laws. President Trump has delivered on his promise to the American people to enforce long-standing immigration law by defining the public charge inadmissibility ground that has been on the books for years,” said USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli.

“Throughout our history, self-sufficiency has been a core tenet of the American dream. Self-reliance, industriousness, and perseverance laid the foundation of our nation and have defined generations of hardworking immigrants seeking opportunity in the United States ever since. Through the enforcement of the public charge inadmissibility law, we will promote these long-standing ideals and immigrant success,” he added.

The regulation also explains how the USCIS will exercise its discretionary authority, in limited circumstances, to offer an alien inadmissible only on the public charge ground the opportunity to post a public charge bond.

The minimum bond amount is set at $8,100 while the actual bond amount will be dependent on the individual’s circumstances.

The US government, however, stressed this regulation does not apply to humanitarian-based immigration programs for refugees, asylees, Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJs), certain trafficking victims (T non-immigrants), victims of qualifying criminal activity (U non-immigrants), or victims of domestic violence (VAWA self-petitioners), among others. 

The DHS said the final rule supersedes the 1999 Interim Field Guidance on Deportability and Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.

It will take effect on October 15 or 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

The USCIS said it will apply the public charge inadmissibility final rule only to applications and petitions postmarked or submitted electronically on or after the effective date.

Applications and petitions already pending with USCIS will be adjudicated based on the 1999 Interim Guidance.   

The USCIS said it will provide information and additional details to the public as part of public outreach related to the implementation of this rule.

Engagement sessions will also be conducted to ensure the public understands which benefits are included in the public charge inadmissibility rule.

Japan, US sympathize with PH as it reels from powerful earthquakes

Marje Pelayo   •   October 31, 2019

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim (L) and Japan Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda (R)

MANILA, Philippines – The governments of Japan and the United States extended their condolences to the victims of the powerful earthquakes that rocked parts of Mindanao.

In a statement, Japan Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda expressed his sincerest condolences to the families of the victims and offered his sympathies to all those affected.

“As an earthquake-prone country, Japan fully understands the hardship caused by such natural disasters,” Haneda said.

“We stand in solidarity with the Government and the people of the Philippines,” he added.

Meanwhile, outgoing US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim tweeted his message of condolences to the families of the victims in the powerful earthquakes.

“I would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the victims of yesterday’s earthquake in Mindanao,” he said.

“To those in affected communities, please stay safe and know that our thoughts and prayers are with you,” he continued.

Strong aftershocks of up to magnitude 6.5 were felt in several parts of Mindanao following the main tremor on Tuesday (October 29).

Since then, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) recorded more than 700 aftershocks with strength equal to the main tremor in the same epicenter specifically in Tulunan town, North Cotabato.

As of this writing, search and rescue operations for the missing and relief efforts for the displaced residents are ongoing in the affected areas.

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo in Ankara for talks on Turkey’s Syria offensive

Robie de Guzman   •   October 17, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens to US President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks during a meeting with President of Italy Sergio Mattarella in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 16 October 2019. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS / POOL

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Ankara on Thursday (October 17) as part of Washington’s efforts to convince Turkey to halt its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria.

Turkey’s week-long assault has created a new humanitarian crisis in Syria with 160,000 civilians taking flight, a security alert over thousands of Islamic State fighters abandoned in Kurdish jails, and a political maelstrom at home for Trump.

Trump has been accused of abandoning Kurdish fighters, who were Washington’s main partners in the battle to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria, by withdrawing troops from the border as Turkey launched its offensive on Oct. 9.

Following a phone call with Erdogan, who has rejected calls for ceasefire or mediation, Trump dispatched top aides including Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara for emergency talks to try to persuade Turkey to halt the offensive. (Reuters)

Palace slams US Senate panel’s attempt to ‘intrude’ on PHL sovereignty

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 27, 2019

Malacañang has condemned the United States Senate Committee’s ‘intrusion’ for approving the proposal to bar government officials involved in Senator Leila de Lima’s imprisonment to enter the United States.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, the said move is an attempt to ‘intrude’ into the country’s sovereignty.

“The Palace considers such undertaking as a brazen attempt to intrude into our country’s domestic legal processes given that the subject cases against the detained senator are presently being heard by our local courts,” Panelo said in a statement.

“It seeks to place pressure upon our independent institutions thereby effectively interfering with our nation’s sovereignty,” he added.

Based on the Twitter post of US Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate Appropriations Committee in the US passed the amendment to prohibit entry to Filipino government officials involved in the imprisonment of Senator Leila de Lima.

Panelo added that this is an insult to the competence and capacity of the Philippines’ duly constituted authorities.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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