USA considers restrictions on green cards for immigrants receiving public benefits

Elias Hubbard
September 25, 2018

The DHS proposes to require all immigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status to demonstrate that they have not received, are not now receiving, nor are likely to receive public benefits as defined in the proposed rule. In an apparent retreat from a leaked draft of the proposal earlier this year, the DHS proposal would not consider Medicaid or other benefits received by US citizen children as a negative factor in their families' legal residency applications.

The changes, if adopted, would potentially affect those applying for immigration visas or those with temporary residency seeking to remain in the country. But they could be forced to choose between using those benefits and getting a green card to stay in the U.S. The Trump administration says it's enforcing a part of immigration law that dates back to the 19th century - the notion that immigrants cannot be a, quote, "public charge". The "public charge" concept has a long history in immigration law, DHS noted, though the proposal would be a much broader take on it.

The public benefits covered by the proposed rule-announced in an unusual Saturday night release by the Department of Homeland Security-include Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Section 8 housing vouchers.

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.

Immigrants could also be denied a change in legal status once in the United States if they received or are likely in the future to use public benefits, such as public housing and food stamps equivalent to a certain monetary threshold.

The proposed changes would "promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers", she added.

Immigration activists claimed the rule would hurt the country in the long run.

Trump came to power pledging to make immigration to the United States more hard and reduce the number of people allowed to stay in the country.

People have 60 day-time to comment on the proposed rule, which will mainly impact legal immigrants as illegal immigrants are not eligible for any government benefits.

DHS said the changes contained in its 447-page proposal would primarily apply to those seeking admission to the United States or foreigners who attempt to apply for some form of residency status.

The proposal would affect more than 382,000 people per year who obtain permanent residence while already in the United States, DHS said.

Some immigrants will be given the option of posting $10,000 in cash bonds to prove that they will not need public assistance-a proposal akin to auctioning off green cards to wealthy immigrants, according to the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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