Empathy for the Vulnerable? The Fourth Circuit's Internal Struggle to Grapple With the Trump Administration's Immigration Policies: Part II

This article is located on the West Virginia Law Review Online repository at the following link: read the full article here.


Part I of this article described and analyzed Portillo-Flores v. Barr, a case in which the Fourth Circuit, over Judge Stephanie Thacker’s dissent, upheld the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (“BIA”) denial of asylum to a Salvadorian asylum seeker who, as a child, was beaten nearly to death by MS-13 because his sister fled the country to avoid becoming a gang leader’s girlfriend. It contends not only that Portillo-Flores is inconsistent with general immigration standards, but also that the Fourth Circuit committed two main legal errors. First, the Fourth Circuit erred in requiring that Portillo-Flores should have reported the persecution to police, even though such a report would have been ineffective or put him in more danger. Second, the Fourth Circuit failed to apply a child-specific standard when evaluating persecution against 14-year-old Portillo-Flores.

Part II of this article addresses a different class of vulnerable persons: the “public charge.” Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), “any alien who . . . is likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible” to the U.S. “Public charges” cannot receive a visa to travel to the U.S., be granted admission to it, or receive status in it. While vulnerable groups like refugees, asylees, and other individuals admitted to the U.S. on humanitarian grounds are exempt from the public charge rule, 40% of all immigrants that are subject to the rule constitute another, equally vulnerable group: spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens seeking family-sponsored admission. This is the focus of Part II of this article.

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