The Statue of Liberty versus public charge

THE Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor has always been a symbol of immigration and of welcoming immigrants to the U.S. The USCIS has used the Statue of Liberty as its own symbol. Approval notices have an orange colored picture of the Statue of Liberty torch in the background, and the “help” search tool on the USCIS website is named “Emma” after poet Emma Lazarus, whose poem, “The New Colossus,” is commemorated on a bronze plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

The main theme of that poem is to welcome immigrants to the U.S., offering them freedom from oppression and poverty in their home countries, and provide opportunities and a better life in America. Among those the Statue of Liberty welcomes to the U.S. are the poor, huddled masses, wretched refuse, and homeless:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The new public charge policies of the USCIS and Embassy directly conflict with the Statue of Liberty’s welcoming message and purpose, and it would now seem hypocritical for USCIS to use the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of its functions.

Under these regulations, being poor, wretched, or homeless is a negative factor, which could result in a person’s green card being denied and/or them being prohibited from entering the U.S. We don’t want the poor and wretched anymore. They are not welcome.

The main focus of public charge is to evaluate if a person is young, able-bodied, educated, able to work, able to speak English, has a great credit score, etc. If there is reason to believe that it is more likely than not the person will not be self-sufficient, and instead depend on taxpayers for care and support, their immigrant visa or adjustment of status could be denied.

With these new public charge policies in effect, I would advise that you seek the assistance of an immigration attorney to help you navigate this new minefield, versus trying to do it on your own. The new public charge policies and forms are lengthy and complex. As you can see, they were designed to nullify the message on the Statue of Liberty of welcoming the poor.

If your family member’s green card is denied on public charge grounds, it could be extremely difficult to later reverse or overturn that denial. Having an attorney assist you at the outset could greatly increase your chances of success, as an attorney can help you evaluate the public charge issues, income requirements of the sponsors, and fill out the various new and lengthy forms, etc.

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Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 35 years and is licensed, and an active member of the State Bars of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different and results may depend on the facts of the particular case. The information and opinions contained herein (including testimonials, “Success Stories”, endorsements and re-enactments) are of a general nature, and are not intended to apply to any particular case, and do not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.
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