Trump Administration Plans to Deny Green Cards to Immigrants on Food Stamps and Other Public Aid

By Casey March 4, 2020 2 min. read

** UPDATE: On January 27th, 2020, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of allowing the Trump administration to begin enforcing new limits on immigrants who are considered likely to become overly dependent on government benefit programs. **

On Monday, the Trump Administration announced a new rule that would enable officials to deny green cards to migrants if they believe the recipients have or will receive public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, or housing vouchers.

This new rule is the administrations latest effort to slow the amount of legal immigration to the United States, regardless of Trump’s previous focus on illegal immigration. Officials said the rule is intended to ensure those approved for legal residency  are able to support themselves.

The rule, that is said to take place mid-October, claims US Citizenship and Immigration Services will now weigh public assistance along with other factors such as education, household income and health to determine whether to grant legal status. In addition to considering whether an applicant currently receives benefits, they will also determine whether there is a likelihood that person will do in the future.

The acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, said “We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient,” Cuccinelli said. “That’s a core principle of the American dream. It’s deeply embedded in our history, and particularly our history related to legal immigration.”

The National Immigration Law Center has announced its intent to legally challenge the new rule.

“It will have a dire humanitarian impact, forcing some families to forego critical life-saving health care and nutrition,” the organization’s executive director, Marielena Hincapieé, said in a press release. “The damage will be felt for decades to come.”

Migrants make up a small percentage of those who get public benefits. In fact, many are ineligible for public benefits because of their immigration status.

Immigrant rights groups strongly criticized the changes, warning the rules will scare immigrants into not asking for help. And they are concerned the rules give too much authority to decide whether someone is likely to need public assistance at any time, giving officials the ability to deny legal status to more people.

Even though the rule had been proposed in October, the debate around it may already be having a chilling effect on immigrant communities. A study released by the Urban Institute in May found that one in seven — or 13.7% — of adults in immigrant families did not seek aid from a non-cash benefit program for fear of imperiling their chances at receiving a green card.

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