Immigrants who benefit from various forms of public assistance, including food stamps and housing subsidies, would face sharp new hurdles to obtaining a green card under a proposed rule announced by the Trump administration on Saturday.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a press release that the proposal was aimed at protecting taxpayers, but advocates for immigrant rights say they would force thousands to choose between staying in the country and receiving public assistance.
The Trump administration on Saturday revealed its plan to make it harder for immigrants to come to or stay in the United States if they or their family may use certain public benefits.
USA immigration laws already have provisions to limit the influx of people likely to be dependent on financial assistance programs.
USA 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.
"Today's announcement by the Trump Administration is a backdoor, administrative end-run to substantially reduce legal immigration that, if implemented, will hurt our entire country", said FWD.us President Todd Schulte.
If the rule survives widely expected legal changes, it could mark a sea change that allows far more immigrants to be rejected from the U.S. or force them to choose to forgo benefits that they or family members would otherwise be eligible to receive.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during the daily news briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on June 18, in Washington, D.C. Homeland Security said Saturday that current and past receipt of certain public benefits above thresholds would be considered "a heavily weighed negative factor" in granting green cards as well as temporary stays for USA migrants.
That will trigger a 60-day comment period.
The use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often known as food stamps, and Section 8 housing assistance would be among the benefits considered.
It broadens a 1999 rule that sought to withhold green cards from immigrants deemed likely to become dependent on government cash assistance, to for the first time include non-cash programs. The existing version of the rule only lists specific monetary benefits.
"(The rule change) places wealth over family, denying ordinary working families a place in America", said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy. "This proposed rule does the opposite and makes clear that the Trump administration continues to prioritise money over family unity by ensuring that only the wealthiest can afford to build a future in this country", she said.