These public assistance programs might affect immigrants applying for citizenship
New Trump administration guidelines that expand the list of reasons for which immigrants can be summoned before an immigration judge to start deportation procedures will take effect Monday, Oct. 1.
The updated list, announced in July by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), includes the option of deporting legal immigrants if they violate federal or state programs related to “the reception of public benefits.”
The rules give immigration officials more leeway to issue Notices to Appear, or NTAs — a document issued to non-citizens instructing them to appear in immigration court. The NTAs traditionally mark the beginning of a deportation process.
Starting Monday, USCIS agents will be able to issue an NTA for a wider range of cases involving evidence of fraud, criminal activity or when a foreign citizen is denied an immigration benefit and therefore loses legal status to remain in the United States.
The USCIS policy memorandum states its purpose is to align with Trump’s executive order “for enhancing public safety,” which “articulated the priorities for the removal of aliens from the United States.”
“For too long, USCIS officers uncovering instances of fraudulent or criminal activity have been limited in their ability to help ensure U.S. immigration laws are faithfully executed,” agency Director L. Francis Cissna has said.
The new procedures, he added, give immigration officers more freedom and offers them “clear guidance they need and deserve to support the enforcement priorities established by the president, keep our communities safe, and protect the integrity of our immigration system from those seeking to exploit it.”
Another news release issued Wednesday to announce the implementation of the new policy on NTAs noted that USCIS will send “denial letters for status-impacting applications that ensures benefit seekers are provided adequate notice when an application for a benefit is denied.”
The immigration agency said the revised guidelines are designed to strengthen the enforcement priorities of the Department of Homeland Security, which last week made public a proposal to keep immigrants from obtaining permanent residence or green cards if they receive certain public benefits.
Under the new guidelines, USCIS adjudicators are required to issue NTAs in the following categories:
▪ Cases in which fraud or false representation is substantiated.
▪ Cases in which immigrants have abused some of the public benefits available to them.
▪ Cases in which immigrants have been accused or convicted of a criminal offense, even if criminal conduct was not the basis for the denial.
▪ USCIS will be allowed to refer cases involving serious criminal activity to ICE before adjudication of an immigration benefit request pending before USCIS without issuing an NTA.
▪ Cases in which USCIS denies an Application for Naturalization on good moral character grounds because of a criminal offense.
▪ Cases in which, upon the denial of an application or petition, an applicant is unlawfully present in the United States.
The USCIS announcement Wednesday added that it will continue to “prioritize cases of individuals with criminal records, fraud, or national security concerns.”