Trump administration formally proposes plan to limit legal immigration to those not dependent on public benefits

Express News

By|Updated: November 24, 2018

The Trump administration formally announced late Saturday a long-anticipated proposal to change a public rule to potentially favor legal immigrants in the United States who are applying for green cards and those applying to enter the country on visas who have not used or do not have plans to use public benefits, including Medicaid, food stamps, and public housing.

The Department of Homeland Security rolled out the proposal, saying a “public charge,” a person who receives financial support from the U.S. government for greater than a select period of time, will become a “heavily weighed negative factor” in immigrant admissions.

“Under long-standing federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement. “This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”

Foreigners applying for or renewing visas who receive or would likely receive certain public benefits would be “generally ineligible” for admission or an extension to stay. The formal proposal is significantly weaker than versions drafted earlier this year that had included looking at whether people used Obamacare and tax credits.

“How you contribute to your community — and not what you look like or the contents of your wallet — should be what matters most,” Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement. “This proposed rule does the opposite and makes clear that the Trump administration continues to prioritize money over family unity by ensuring that only the wealthiest can afford to build a future in this country.”

A person’s age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills are “prospective” factors in the decision-making process, according to DHS. Those criteria were determined long before President Trump took office and are outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

In 1999 the rule was rewritten to limit green cards, or permanent residency, to legal immigrants who received cash benefits. However, a person’s request for a green card, the step prior to being able to apply for citizenship, was not affected by his or her use of healthcare or nonmonetary benefits.

Current policy looks at whether applicants rely on or would request federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income support, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Supplemental Security Income.

The proposed change would also take into consideration a person’s reliance on Medicaid with few exceptions, the Medicare Part D low income subsidy, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Section 8 housing choice voucher program, Section 8 project-based rental assistance and public housing, and long-term institutionalization on the government’s dime.

In announcing the proposed change, DHS defended the move and said the U.S. “continues to be a global leader in humanitarian protection.” The U.S. accepted more asylum-seekers and refugees than Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom combined in calendar year 2017.

The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register in the next few weeks. The public will then have 60 days to comment on the proposal.