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Trump Issues Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens

Watson Immigration Law News UpdateToday Trump issued a memorandum making it mandatory for state and local agencies to sue I-864 sponsors for all means-tested benefits that are paid to adjustment of status applicants/beneficiaries. These means-tested benefits programs include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Previously, no agency anywhere across the U.S. sued sponsors for reimbursement of these benefits; this has now changed in this latest attack on legal immigration by this administration.


Relevant sections of the memo copied below:


Sec2.  Background. Since December 19, 1997, the Congress has required an alien’s sponsor to sign an affidavit of support under section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) pledging financial support for the sponsored alien in the event the sponsored alien applies for or receives means-tested public benefits.

Section 213A of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1183a) also requires that upon notification that a sponsored alien has received any means tested public benefit, the appropriate government or non government entity that provided such benefit shall request reimbursement from the sponsor in an amount equal to the unreimbursed cost of such benefit.

Section 421 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1631) states that when an alien with an affidavit of support under section 213A of the INA applies for any benefit under a Federal means-tested public benefits program, the income and resources of the sponsor and the sponsor’s spouse are deemed to be income and resources of the alien for purposes of determining both the alien’s eligibility for the benefits and the amount of public benefits that may be awarded to the alien.

These deeming and reimbursement requirements are subject to several important statutory exceptions for aliens who have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty (8 U.S.C. 1631(f)) or who would be unable to obtain food and shelter without the public benefits (8 U.S.C. 1631(e)), for children and pregnant women who are lawfully residing in the United States and receiving medical assistance from a State under the Children’s  Health Insurance Program or Medicaid (42 U.S.C. 1396b(v)(4)), and for aliens receiving SNAP benefits who are members of the sponsor’s household or are under 18 years old (7 U.S.C. 2014(i)(2)(E)).

Currently, agencies are not adequately enforcing these requirements.  Some agencies have insufficient procedures and guidance for implementing these reimbursement and deeming requirements of the immigration laws.  For example, the Department of Health and Human Services has not adequately issued guidance on either sponsor reimbursement or sponsor deeming for the Medicaid program.  Even in cases in which some guidance exists — such as for the Supplemental Security Income, TANF, and SNAP programs — increased oversight and updates to current data collection efforts will ensure more effective compliance.

Ensuring compliance with the rule of law requires renewed efforts to enforce these requirements and the issuance of appropriate guidance so agency practices and enforcement can be aligned with Federal law.

Sec3.  Issuance of Guidance and Procedures; Implementation.   (a)  No later than 90 days after the date of this memorandum, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services shall take all appropriate steps to enforce section 213A of the INA.  Such enforcement efforts shall include:

(i)   establishing or updating, as appropriate, procedures and guidance on the reimbursement obligations of sponsors; and

(ii)  providing such procedures and guidance to all entities involved in enforcement effort actions, including the Federal and State officials responsible for administering any means-tested public benefit programs under the respective purview of each Secretary.

(b)  The guidance issued pursuant to subsection (a) of this section should include, as appropriate and consistent with law:

(i)    procedures for recovering reimbursement from an alien’s financial sponsor for means-tested public benefit payments made to an alien;

(ii)   procedures for notification to the sponsor of amounts owed in reimbursement and any procedures related to appeal, payment plans, non-response, and non-reimbursement;

(iii)  procedures for notifying the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security of sponsor’s non payment and procedures for requesting that the Attorney General bring a civil action against the sponsor;

(iv)   procedures for data sharing with Federal agencies, as appropriate and consistent with law;

(v)    procedures for how the income and resources of the sponsor and the sponsor’s spouse will be deemed attributable to the alien in determining eligibility for the means-tested public benefit and the amount of benefits that may be awarded; and

(vi)   procedures for determining whether any exceptions to the deeming or reimbursement requirements apply to the alien.