The Trump administration on Monday released a long-awaited rule strengthening the ability of federal officials to deny green cards to immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, or other forms of public assistance.
The rule potentially makes it more difficult for a number of immigrants to get legal status in the United States.
Federal law already requires those seeking green cards and legal status to prove they will not be a burden to the U.S., or what’s called a “public charge.” The rule is a way to ensure those granted permanent residency are self-sufficient. It helps protect taxpayers.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers will now weigh public assistance along with other factors such as education, household income, and health to determine whether to grant legal status.
The rules will take effect in mid-October.
The acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, said the rule change fits with the president’s message.
“We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient,” Cuccinelli said. “That’s a core principle of the American Dream. It’s deeply embedded in our history, and particularly our history related to legal immigration.”
“It will also have the long-term benefit of protecting taxpayers by ensuring people who are immigrating to this country don’t become public burdens, that they can stand on their own two feet, as immigrants in years past have done,” he said. “It’s not only a recipe for their success, but for America’s success growing out of our immigration system,” according to Fox News.
The new rule will define “public charge” as an immigrant who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period.
Under the new rules, the Department of Homeland Security has redefined a public charge as someone who is “more likely than not” to receive public benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period. If someone has two benefits, that is counted as two months. And the definition has been broadened to include Medicaid, housing assistance and food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
On average, 544,000 people apply annually for green cards, with about 382,000 falling into categories that would be subject to this review, according to the government.
Green card hopefuls will be required to submit three years of federal tax returns in addition to a history of employment. And if immigrants have private health insurance that will weigh heavily in their favor.
This move demonstrates the Trump administration is going further than simply tackling illegal immigration and questioning the status quo of the legal immigration system.
Cuccinelli said that the rule “is entirely in line with the president keeping his promises to make the immigration system work better for America.”
Includes reporting from the Associated Press.