Published: Tue, August 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

New Trump rule would target legal immigrants who get public assistance

New Trump rule would target legal immigrants who get public assistance

The rule, Sandweg says, is part of the Trump administration's broader effort to reduce legal immigration.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said at a press conference Monday that the rule would affect some 400,000 people who apply for permanent residence status each year.

The Trump administration has introduced a new "public charge" rule to cut down on legal immigrants who are unlikely to support themselves without government welfare. Officials say this will ensure that those who are granted access to the USA can be financially self-sufficient taxpayers who aren't in need of federal entitlements.

The new rule defines public charge as an immigrant who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, within any 36-month period, according to a fact sheet from USCIS.

"Throughout our history, self-reliance has been a core principle in America", he stated.

Cuccinelli described the rule as a win for Trump on Monday, stating: "President Trump has once again delivered on his promise to the American people to enforce long-standing immigration law".

Presented on Monday in the United States government's Federal Register as an unpublished rule, the new policy is scheduled to be published on Wednesday and to take effect 60 days after that, unless it is halted by a litigation.

This rule will cover nearly 400,000 people per year whose applications to become legal permanent residents will include a meaningful analysis of whether they are likely to become a public charge or not.

The new rule - from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security - focuses on the obscure definition of what it means to be a "public charge", or someone dependent of U.S. government benefits, and who is "likely" to become one.

But in New York City, where almost 20% of the population relies on SNAP benefits to help feed their families, officials have found that twice as many "eligible noncitizen New Yorkers are either withdrawing from or not enrolling in SNAP" than eligible USA citizens, particularly in the past two years as rumors of the coming public charge rule have circulated, according to an analysis by the New York City Department of Social Services and the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs.

"We certainly expect people of any income to be able to stand on their own two feet", Cuccinelli added.

The "public charge" provision dates back at least to the Immigration Act of 1882.

The new rule may soon draw challenges in court from immigrants' rights groups and state attorneys general, which has become a common occurrence as the Trump Administration has attempted to crack down on both legal and illegal immigration.

The new rule will have some exceptions. Opponents say the change only makes it easier to deny green cards.

Receiving benefits before the rule goes into effect will not count negatively against applicants, Cuccinelli said.

He added that it may not be the immigrants' fault that they were dependent on public services, but that it was a drain on USA taxpayers nonetheless as a result of bad immigration policies that encouraged them to come.

The Trump administration plans to roll out new guidelines in the fall when it comes to immigrants seeking a more permanent status in the U.S.

Research suggests children who need and have access to Medicaid and food benefits perform better in school, are healthier overall, and are better positioned to help their households be more financially secure, said Kelly Whitener, an associate professor of practice at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy's Center for Children and Families.

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