In what could cut legal immigration to the United States by half, the Trump administration said yesterday that those seeking public benefits could be denied green cards.
Reportedly, the US would reject applications for temporary or permanent visas unless immigrants prove that they would be able to sustain themselves financially, and not rely on public assistance such as food stamps, public housing or Medicaid.
Immigrant relatives of US citizens could also be affected
As per the new regulation, issued by the Department of Homeland Security, visa applicants would need to convince the consular office that they would never avail the benefits of public assistance programs, that the US administration wishes to reserve for its citizens.
According to the Associated Press, immigrants who are relatives of US citizens could also be subject to the move, effective October 15.
Directive issued to reduce burden on American taxpayers
Any migrant who receives public benefits above a certain threshold is called a "public charge." With this new 837-page rule, the US government aims to bar immigrants from being a burden on American taxpayers, whose long-term benefits are being prioritized.
President Trump has delivered on his promise: USCIS Acting Director
"For over a century, the public charge ground of inadmissibility has been part of our nation's immigration laws," said Acting Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Ken Cuccinelli, seemingly referring to the Immigration Act of 1882.
Cuccinelli added, "President Trump has delivered on his promise to the American people to enforce long-standing immigration law by defining the public charge inadmissibility ground."
1996: Two bills preventing migrants from exploiting public benefits passed
In fact, back in 1996, Congress had passed two bipartisan bills, signed by former President Bill Clinton, which prevented migrants from "exploiting" public benefits, the White House said.
These include the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.
However, this legal requirement went largely unenforced and the Trump administration is looking to change that.
73% Americans say migrants need to be self-sufficient
Further, 73% Americans agree that migrants need to be self-sufficient.
The White House stated that 78% households in the US, headed by non-citizens with at most a high school education, and 58% of all non-citizen headed households rely on at least one welfare program.
It added that they want to ensure that non-citizens don't "jeopardize the social safety net needed by vulnerable Americans."
Over 50% visa applicants to be eliminated, say experts
Meanwhile, Doug Rand, the co-founder of pro-migrant group Boundless, told Reuters that the directive aims to scare immigrants away from availing public benefits that they are entitled to.
While the US estimated that the status of 382,000 immigrants could be immediately reviewed, a Boundless study stated that this move could eliminate over half of visa applicants.