Legal immigrant sponsors in the United States received the word Friday, June 14, that they will be on the hook “for every dollar” if those immigrants end up receiving welfare or other public support rather than earning a living and paying taxes.

The message came last week from Ken Cuccinelli, a former Virginia state attorney general who was appointed by President Trump as acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

“If the sponsored immigrant receives any federal means-tested public benefits, the sponsor will be expected to reimburse the benefits-granting agency for every dollar of benefits received by the immigrant,” Cuccinelli wrote in a USCIS memo.

According to Cuccinelli, in accordance with a May 23 directive from the president, all federal agencies dealing with immigration issues will work to update or initiate procedures and regulations to ensure that immigrants ineligible for public benefits do not receive them.

“The President has made it a priority to ensure that every individual who seeks to come to the United States is self-sufficient, temporarily or permanently,” Cuccinelli wrote. “The principle of self-sufficiency has been enshrined in our immigration laws since the 1800s, and we as an agency must ensure that immigrants who become part of this great country abide by this principle.”

The Associated Press first reported last month that President Trump was considering bringing on Cuccinelli as an “immigration czar” to coordinate policy across federal agencies. Cuccinelli took over at USCIS last Monday, coming to the job with a reputation as a hardliner on immigration issues. 

Cuccinelli has in the past advocated for denying citizenship to the American-born children of parents living in the United States illegally, limiting in-state tuition at public universities only to those who are citizens or legal residents, according to The Associated Press.

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