More than 40 million people in the US have lost their jobs since the coronavirus pandemic began, a staggering figure that shows just how devastating COVID-19 has been. While unemployment benefits are available and have even been increased, many immigrants fear that their status could be affected if they apply for these benefits.
In this article, our Dallas attorney will explain what’s going on and why immigrants should not be afraid to file for unemployment benefits during this pandemic—or ever.
Do Not Fear the “Public Charge Rule”
In early 2020, the US Supreme Court approved what is known as the public charge rule. This rule, written by the Trump administration, allows immigration officers to assess whether applicants for green cards, visa extensions and other immigration permissions are at risk of becoming dependent on government benefits.
In other words, the public charge rule makes it harder for immigrants to maintain their status if an officer believes the immigrant may end up needing welfare.
Here is the key point: unemployment benefits are not welfare. The U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) has confirmed that unemployment benefits are not part of the public charge rule. In this NPR story, the USCIS spokesman said unemployment is an earned benefit that is not factored in when an officer performs a public charge review.
Inform Your Loved Ones
We have heard stories about immigrants who have been laid off from their jobs due to COVID-19—and many other reasons—who have not applied for unemployment because they are afraid of losing their status or even being deported. That is completely understandable because the news and the law have become so confusing.
As a Dallas immigration law firm, we can tell you that there is no reason to be scared. If you were working in the US and were terminated, applying for unemployment will not jeopardize your immigration status.
We know that immigration restrictions have been getting tighter and tighter, which makes immigrants wary of doing anything that they’ve heard could put their status in danger. But this specific action—filing for unemployment—can not be used against you.If you have family members or loved ones who lost their jobs, please let them know the truth. We don’t want anyone to avoid applying for their unemployment benefits; not getting unemployment only makes a difficult situation even harder. If you need help or advice, our firm would be happy to help.
We’re Ready to Assist
If you’re still unsure of your rights regarding unemployment benefits or how applying for benefits affects you, please contact us anytime. Our Dallas attorney, Mark Jacobs, is very knowledgeable about this issue and can give you clear advice. Reach us by calling 972-445-7577 or contact us online.