Likely need for public aid could keep migrants out


Angering immigrant rights and economic equality advocates alike, the Trump administration has made official its proposal to deny permanent residency, or green cards, to immigrants who have used public assistance programs including nutritional or housing aid.

United States immigrants who get public benefits like food stamps or housing vouchers could be denied green cards, under a new proposal from President Donald Trump's administration.

"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. But the proposed changes amount to a broad expansion of the government's ability to deny visas or residency to immigrants if they or members of their household benefit from programs like Medicaid Part D, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Section 8 housing vouchers.

The proposed legislation which came from the Department of Homeland Security would empower the immigration officer to turn down the visa request or legal permanent residency to aspiring immigrants.

It's the latest move by President Donald Trump to crack down on immigration, both legal and illegal. Under the new rule, immigrants who receive more than $1,821 annually in benefits that can be monetized will be disqualified from receiving green cards and visas. The proposal could make it harder for immigrants to stay in the USA if they are deemed likely to become a "public charge", in other words, a new "burden" for American taxpayers and can potentially be dependent on government assistance.

"The department takes seriously its responsibility to be transparent in its rulemaking and is welcoming public comment on the proposed rule".

The rule would expand the definition of a "public charge", or a person who relies on government benefits. Previous versions of the rule would have penalized immigrants for using those benefits.

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data show that immigrants benefit from public assistance at almost the same rate as non-immigrants, according to a draft version of the new rule, distributed by The Washington Post.

As for native-born Americans who get the same forms of assistance, the Post says, "In 2015, 3.4 percent of 270 million nonimmigrant Americans received cash welfare payments, USCIS research found, and 22.1 percent received noncash subsidies".

Immigrants that receive certain public benefits would be subject to having to leave the country under these new limitations.

The administration estimated the regulations would affect about 382,000 people a year.

That will trigger a 60-day comment period. But immigration officials now are only allowed to consider families' use of public cash benefits and Medicaid long-term-care benefits in evaluating applications for legal permanent residency and legal entry into the United States.

A protester wearing a mask depicting US President Donald Trump taking part in a rally against the deportation of immigrants, in NY in July.

"The United States continues to be a global leader in humanitarian protection", DHS said in a press release.