New Immigration Policy Sharply Restricts Green Cards for Those on Public Aid

Author: Shelby Kruczek, Guest Blogger

You may have heard about the Trump administration’s newly proposed immigration rule that was made public a few weeks ago. In an Independent article last month, Atlanta immigration attorney Charles Kuck predicted that the upcoming policy might “prevent immigrants from applying for benefits in the first place,” noting that he was aware of “immigrant parents who were wary of applying for food stamps for their children, for fear it would affect their citizenship application.” Kuck’s insight and projections regarding the recent immigration rule proved correct.


What is the proposed rule?

The new rule, entitled “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” as reported by the Department of Homeland Security on September 22, outlines new legal regulations and stricter options for immigrants and their families who seek to stay in the United States. The rule would effectively hurt – or deny the chances of – green card issuance to immigrants who receive public benefits, such as food stamps, subsidized housing, or Medicaid. A green card is a colloquial term for lawful permanent residence (LPR) status in the U.S.

Under this new policy, immigrants spanning a wide variety of backgrounds and situations will be faced with an incredibly difficult decision: either give up needed assistance, such as food for their children, or abandon the green card process that would enable them to live and work legally in the U.S. Yet, many adult immigrants are working low-paying jobs and already contributing to the local economy. Thus, the proposed rule would be a catch-22 for many individuals and their families seeking to make a life here in the U.S.

Who is affected?

A misnomer is that these legal restrictions would help to manage the public tax burden (or “public charge”) of immigrants without a legal status in the country. Yet in their NY Times article, Michael D. Shear and Emily Baumgaertner clarify that unauthorized immigrants are ineligible for nearly all public benefits, and thus, these folks might not necessarily be affected by the new change. In addition, as the authors explain, “the new rule [does] not apply to refugees or asylum seekers who enter the country, or to legal immigrants who serve in the military. Cash or other assistance given to the immigrant victims of natural disasters would not be counted against them.”

Instead, the following groups would be significantly impacted by the new immigration policy:

Poor immigrants and at-risk migrants. Individuals and their families in lower income brackets would be at increased risk of poor nutrition and health. The specific benefit programs that could effectively disqualify a person’s green card application include: “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (food stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare), Medicaid, Medicare Part D (prescription drug subsidies) and Section 8 (housing vouchers)”.

Children of immigrant parents. All things considered, children may be put at most risk by the proposed rule. The same article above discussed how approximately “20 million children in immigrant families could be affected by the policy changes, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation…Almost nine in 10 of those children are United States citizens.”

International students and aspiring immigrants. International students currently studying who plan to work in the U.S. after their studies would face tight financial restrictions as entering the green card process would mean avoiding any reliance on public benefits. This also applies to potential immigrants who have yet to arrive but plan to live and work permanently in the U.S.

What can I do?

The proposed rule is not yet in effect, as the administration plans to first engage in a 60-day period of review. To provide your feedback, suggestions, or opinion on this proposal, you can visit the Federal Register where the 447-page document will be posted for public review. You can also connect with LSS/NCA or other organizations that serve low-income immigrants in the local area to ask how you can engage in this conversation and be a positive change agent for community and social change.


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