The Trump administration is moving to fulfill another of President Trump’s campaign promises by implementing more restrictions on legal immigration by deporting green-card holders who rely too heavily on federal government programs like food stamps. According to the Associate Press, the Department of Homeland Security published a 447-page proposal on Saturday outlining its plans to expand restrictions that would disqualify legal immigrants from obtaining a green card if they rely too heavily on Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers and other forms of public assistance. According to US law, applicants must prove they won’t become a “public charge” – that they wouldn’t derive more than half their income from government programs – to achieve green-card status. Under the proposal, the federal government would begin factoring in non-monetary benefits like food stamps and Section 8 housing benefits.
The rule would also require public officials to take into account factors like mental health issues, cancer and heart disease, since all these factors could increase the likelihood of a person becoming a public charge.
According to the Department of Homeland Security proposal, current and past receipt of certain public benefits above an expanded threshold would be “a heavily weighed negative factor” in granting green cards, as well as temporary visas. The proposal has yet to be entered into the Federal Register – but it will be entered into it at some point during “the coming weeks”, at which point a 60-day comment period will begin.
If enacted, the rule could impact about 382,000 people a year, according to government estimates. However, opponents have said it could have a much wider impact as current green-card holders will avoid using badly needed benefits, according to the LA Times.
“Those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a Saturday statement, adding that the new rule would “promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”
The rule would not need to be approved by Congress following the comment period. Unsurprisingly, immigration advocates are already gearing up for a fight.
Immigrant advocates and congressional Democrats have already vowed to fight the rule, and political observers said it could become a factor in upcoming midterm election that will determine which party controls Congress.
“I see the Trump administration’s hostility towards immigrants as part of a strategy of mass distraction to keep the focus on fomenting outrage directed at Latinos while keeping the focus off of the corruption and graft that are gripping the White House and the GOP,” Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.), chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement.
“Self-sufficiency has been a basic principle of United States immigration law since this country’s earliest immigration statutes,” the nearly 500-page proposal states, insisting that “the availability of public benefits not constitute an incentive for immigration.”
But supporters of the policy say it is long overdue.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, which advocates for limits on legal migration, called the new rule “long overdue.”
“How wealthy do you have to be to be able to pay your own bills?” Krikorian said. “The point here is, can you support yourself? There’s no justification for admitting poor immigrants who need my money and your money to feed their kids…. We’ve already got enough people we have to support.”
Krikorian said we live in a new age of immigration in which the poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty – “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — no longer applies.
“Nobody coming over from Sicily to Ellis Island was accepting food stamps,” he said.
The administration is choosing a risky time to move forward with the policy. As the AP points out, it could galvanize Democratic voters, who have been driven to the point of near-hysteria over Trump’s other attempts at tightening restrictions on both legal and illegal immigration.
Then again, if the policy becomes law, it would be one more restriction preventing the “chain migration” – when legal immigrants seek to bring their entire families over to the US” – that Trump has promised to restrict.
If that happens, we wouldn’t be surprised to see waves of outraged leftists congregating outside USCIS offices, demanding the administration back down from yet another “inhumane” policy.
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