Tuesday, November 3, 2009

HIV Infection No Longer Sole Grounds for Inadmissibility to U.S.

I just read this news update:

In the Federal Register, dated Monday, November 2, 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will officially remove HIV infection from the definition of "communicable disease of public health significance” and will additionally remove any reference to HIV from the scope of examinations for aliens wishing to enter the U.S.

Prior to this final rule, HIV infection was considered a communicable disease of public health significance by CDC; individuals that tested positive for the infection during the required medical examination for U.S. immigration were inadmissible to the United States. However, effective January 4, 2010, as stated in this final rule, such individuals will no longer be inadmissible to the United States solely on the ground that they are infected.

What I don't know is what factors were considered by the CDC or US CIS in finalizing the rule. What I do know is that before the final rule is published, there is plenty of time during which public comments are sought and anybody who has any feedback, comments or objections can send them to Department of State.  So, my assumption is that since comments are always sought, the comments were made by some interested organization, group and number of people.

I personally wonder what is financial and social impact of bringing in more people in this category to US general population pool. I would imagine that, at bare minimum, people with such medical issues would not be able to obtain health insurance. How are they going to pay for the healthcare? I would imagine that they would go to county hospital and taxpayers would pay for it. I don't know anything in between.

So, how do we balance the fine interest of family unity and taxpayer burden? Keep in mind, that there is an additional provision that visa can be denied if intended immigrant is likely to become a public charge.

Under the law, there is a 3-part test for determining deportability as a public charge:

1] the state or government agency that provides a public benefit must charge for services rendered. The alien cannot be regarded a public charge if there is no legal reimbursement requirement.
2] the welfare agency must make a demand for repayment.
3] the alien or other legally responsible persons must fail to repay the debt after the demand is made. All three prongs must be met.

So, if someone is primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either: (i) the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or (ii) institutionalization for long-term care at government expense, then they can be considered public charge.

I feel that it is going to be very tricky!!! I personally feel that Consulates and Consular officers are going to need clear and detailed instructions from Department of State. This is a major policy shift.