President Donald Trump issued a memorandum last month directing federal agencies to enforce laws that restrict the ability of immigrants to receive federal benefits, including a law that requires sponsors to reimburse the government for means-tested benefits that immigrants receive. Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), issued a statement today indicating that USCIS officers will now be required to remind individuals at their adjustment-of-status interviews of their sponsors’ responsibilities under existing law and regulations.

These actions come as part of the administration’s broader efforts to keep immigrants from becoming a “public charge” after coming to the United States. Last fall, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a rule to expand the definition of the public charge ground of inadmissibility under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under the proposed rule, the types of benefits that DHS officials would consider when determining admissibility would be expanded to include certain non-cash benefits, such as Medicaid prescription drug subsidies, food stamps, and Section 8 housing assistance. A final public charge rule is expected to be published soon.

The subsequent Presidential Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens, which was issued May 23, does not change any laws or regulations itself, but directs federal agencies to take actions consistent with the White House’s priorities on federal benefits for immigrants.

BAL Analysis: While it is unclear what actions the federal government will take under Trump’s recent memorandum, the memo is an indication that the Trump administration is prioritizing the public charge issue. The public charge rule has been in the pipeline for months, and a final version is likely to be released soon. A BAL FAQ on the draft “public charge” proposal is available here.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact

Copyright © 2019 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact