The Trump administration, in another effort to reduce legal immigration, wants to deny permanent residence to hundreds of thousands of foreigners living legally in the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing to deny so-called “green cards” to legal immigrants and their children if they receive federal or state aid — even if the children are U.S.-born.
A draft of the new DHS regulation, first published by the Reuters news agency, targets immigrants who receive food stamps, Medicaid benefits, rent and utilities subsidies and those who enroll their children in public schools.
“Non-citizens who receive public benefits are not self-sufficient and are relying on the U.S. government and state and local entities for resources instead of their families, sponsors or private organizations,”the draft states.
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If such a regulation had been in effect in 2016, about 383,000 immigrants who received public benefits would have been denied permanent residence, according to Reuters.
“An alien’s receipt of public benefits comes at taxpayer expense and availability of public benefits may provide an incentive for aliens to immigrate to the United States,” the DHS draft added.
Receiving public assistance could impair the case of the immigrants applying for permanent residence, according to the text.
A U.S. Immigration spokesperson declined comment to Reuters, saying the change is only a proposal. It would not affect permanent residents applying for U.S. citizenship.
“The Administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer. Any potential changes to the rule would be in keeping with the letter and spirit of the law – as well as the reasonable expectations of the American people for the government to be good stewards of taxpayer funds,” said a DHS spokesperson.
The drastic change in the regulations — which currently ban immigration officials from considering whether applicants receive most public benefits — would follow other moves to reduce immigration, such as the elimination of the visa lottery and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans and Haitians.
The Trump administration also wants to reduce visas for family reunification and cut back the H1-B visa program for foreign professionals with university degrees.
Current regulations allow immigration officials to consider a narrow range of public benefits in deciding whether a applicants for residence might become a burden on taxpayers, and blocks them from considering non-cash assistance such as food stamps and preschool subsidies.
Experts and officials consulted by Reuters said they were concerned the proposed changes, if adopted, could dissuade migrants from using public assistance programs they need to stay healthy and ready to work as they wait for permanent residence.
Follow Daniel Shoer Roth on Twitter @DanielShoerRoth