Families Belong Together. But Trump’s New Policies Make It Almost Impossible for Latinos to be Reunited

By Giselle Balido

March 5, 2020

Government officials say that immigration should be based on merit and skills. How does it affect you?

Latino families seeking to be reunited in the U.S. are facing a new challenge. Since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, citizens and permanent residents of the United States have been allowed to “petition” spouses or family members to bring them to live in the U.S. as permanent residents. But with the extension of the 2018 travel ban last February, there is a new hurdle for this process. Having a household income above 125% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL)—currently starting at $12,760 for a household of one—used to be the economic threshold to petition relatives. Now the standard is more complex. 

“With the new measures, U.S. CIS is looking at the totality of the circumstances in order to determine whether a person is, or will likely become a public charge,” says Tatiane M. Silva, Managing Partner of Murray & Silva P.A., a Florida law firm specializing in immigration.  ”In other words, people coming in have to prove they will not require public assistance. The goal is no longer family reunification.” 

Instead of just revolving around having a basic income, the new federal rules revolve around a more complex concept: being a “public charge.” The factors in determining this include the petitioner’s age, health, language skills, credit score, and whether they have been the recipient of welfare benefits before. 

“So if you’re trying to bring family members over, be careful about asking for government assistance right now, such as cash, Medicaid or Medicare, food stamps, free or reduced-price school meals or housing help,” adds Ms. Silva.

In order to prove their ability to support the family member coming to the U.S., the petitioner now needs to fill out form I-864 Affidavit of Support, commiting to provide financial support to the foreign national beneficiary. The standards are outlined in table I864P of Poverty Guidelines.

But what if the petitioner can’t prove this financial ability? “In that case, they can get a co-sponsor, who has to be a citizen or a permanent resident, and according to their income and the number of their dependents, their income can be used,” says Ms. Silva. Joint sponsors typically are family or close friends of the primary sponsor.

Another significant change is a proclamation made by Trump that immigrants need to show health insurance or the ability to cover their medical costs once in the U.S. This means the petitioner in the U.S. has to look for medical insurance for their family member, or at least prove that their medical costs can be covered. Age, health and language skills of the person seeking to immigrate will also be assessed. 

“Without a doubt, these new policies are making it more difficult for low-income immigrants to come into the US,” adds Ms. Silva.




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