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Crisis and Immigrants: Does Unemployment Benefit Affect Green Card and US Citizenship

When the coronavirus hit US residents, Daphne and Alex found themselves among millions of suddenly unemployed. Before that, Daphne was preparing for a new job at a local theater in Colorado, and her husband Alex worked as a freelance designer on the schedule and worked as a barista, says NPR. The bad news was compounded by concern: is it safe to apply for unemployment benefits if one of the spouses is an immigrant?

Photo: Shutterstock

Alex is American, but Daphne is from Germany. The publication uses names without surnames, as the couple waits until the US government decides whether to provide Daphne with a green card. This piece of paper will turn her from a temporary visitor - a foreign student - into a permanent resident of the United States, giving her the right to work and live with her husband in the United States.

This couple was among the half-dozen of those whose stories NPR compiled: stories of legal immigrant workers, people who earn a living and pay taxes in the United States, but still fear that unemployment benefits could jeopardize their immigration affairs. Some were waiting for their first green cards; others extended their residence permits or were about to become citizens.

“I see that many clients who are eligible for unemployment benefits are just too afraid to apply for it,” said Cui Yi, a New York immigration lawyer. “Can [unemployment] somehow become a red flag for immigration?” Since COVID began, this question has been raised repeatedly. ”

On the subject: 'Worst Ahead': US Treasury Head Expects Further Unemployment Rise

These concerns are based on the new policy of the Trump administration, which is often called the “social burden” rule: it may be difficult (or impossible) for an immigrant to obtain permanent resident status if it seems that he may need state assistance.

“I’m tired of the fact that our taxpayers pay for people to come to the country and immediately switch to social security and other things,” said President Trump, presenting the new rule in August.

But unemployment benefits are not social benefits. This is insurance, the costs of which are borne by employees and employers, not taxpayers. A spokesman for the US Citizenship and Immigration Service told NPR that unemployment benefits are “earned benefits” that are not taken into account when considering criteria for a “social burden.”

In fact, the “social burden” rule is not aimed at those who apply for an extension of the green card or citizenship, immigration lawyers said. It applies to people applying for a green card for the first time. Yi called on concerned immigrants to seek the help of lawyers if they doubt their protection if they receive benefits.

The Trump administration has consistently sought to limit US immigration by making more and more changes to the rules. Immigrant workers note that many things that were not previously taken into account are now taken into account when considering their immigration cases.

On the subject: How to apply for unemployment benefits: answers to key questions

“I am not applying for unemployment benefits. “I don’t want to do this now,” said Rita, a green card holder who has been working and living in California for several years. Like many, Rita and her husband lost their jobs during the pandemic. “I tell you, I'm afraid.”

Rita came to the United States from Guatemala to study film and acting. She is waiting for the renewal of her green card, hoping to apply for citizenship. She is worried that unemployment benefits will look like Rita is asking America for money.

“I prepared myself and came here legally,” she said. “I'm not here to take advantage of anything.”

Miscellaneous immigrants U.S. unemployment dole Educational program Immigration in the USA public burden

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