One month after President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration, a Seattle startup called Boundless exited stealth mode and announced it would develop technology tools to make the immigration system more navigable.
In the two years that followed, Boundless rolled out products that help immigrants apply for green cards and citizenship, while publishing a steady stream of content to demystify the process. At the same time, Trump introduced policies that limit legal and illegal immigration.
On Friday, the agendas of Boundless and the Trump administration collided with federal court decisions in a complex turn of events that reflects the uncertainty immigrants in America deal with every day.
Three federal judges blocked the Trump administration from implementing a policy that expands the grounds for denying green card and visa applications. The policy, which was set to take effect Tuesday, empowers the government to deny applications from immigrants who use public benefits, like Medicaid. It also raises the minimum income required to be eligible for a green card.
There are other factors that the policy allows immigration officials to consider. The goal, in a nutshell, is to reduce the number immigrants who rely on government assistance, and therefore taxpayer dollars, according to the Trump administration. The criteria for making the determination of whether an immigrant is a “public charge” is complex — and that’s where Boundless comes in.
Boundless began developing a “Public Charge Risk Estimator” before the judges issued an injunction blocking the policy. The tool asks immigrants a series of questions and determines how likely they are to be denied residency based on their answers. Boundless asks about English language skills, household income, and whether the respondent has used public benefits.
The tool is designed “so that families can better understand where their risks are and what they can do to improve their chances,” according to Boundless CEO Xiao Wang.
Boundless launched the Public Charge Risk Estimator within hours of federal judges in Washington state, California, and New York issuing injunctions temporarily blocking the public charge rule. The injunctions issued in New York and Washington apply nationwide.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and his counterparts in other states brought one of the lawsuits over the public charge rule. Ferguson celebrated the temporary injunctions Friday in a statement.
“Thanks to today’s decision, children of lawfully present immigrants will not go hungry or lose their homes as a result of the Trump Administration’s heartless action,” he said. “We will continue to stand up for these families and fight this unlawful, un-American policy.”
The injunctions are a setback for the public charge policy but it’s not the end of the road for the Trump administration. The judges are just blocking the rule from taking effect while the issue is litigated in court.
For that reason, Boundless says it still believes the Public Charge Risk Estimator will be an asset for its customers. It’s one of several tools Boundless has developed for navigating the legal immigration system since spinning out of Pioneer Square Labs in 2017. Earlier this year, Boundless raised $7.8 million, bringing its total funding to $11.3 million.