Legal immigrants who use or appear likely to tap public assistance programs could find it harder to come to the U.S. or stay permanently under a Trump administration proposal released Saturday.
Legal immigrants could be denied a green card, which grants permanent residency, if they have received certain government assistance which they were legally allowed to access. About 27 million people live in families that have received benefits and had at least one immigrant family member, according to a June analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.
The proposal released by the Department of Homeland Security shows President Donald Trump is not backing off tightening immigration despite a backlash and court action over some policies, including the separation this summer of children and parents entering the country illegally.
Conservatives have cheered the new proposal, which was first floated last year, as necessary to prevent immigrants from becoming a drain on public services such as Medicaid and food stamps. Democrats and immigrant rights groups argue the rule would punish people who are entitled to benefits and legally live in the U.S.
The proposed rule must still be finalized following 60 days for public comment. Certain groups, including refugees, would be exempt.
The change would broaden the framework the U.S. considers when deciding status and entry for immigrants who are likely to receive public benefits such as nutrition assistance, low income housing subsidies and Medicaid above a specific threshold, according to the information released Saturday.
“Under long-standing federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement. She added that “This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”
“Building on the traumatic separation of families at the border, the Trump administration has taken another cruel step,“ Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said Saturday in a statement. ”This proposed rule change will similarly result in the separation of families and is just the latest assault on immigrant families.”