In those cases, immigration officials will have expanded authority to issue Notices to Appear (NTA), documents that mark the start of deportation procedures.
The main public benefits that immigrants with legal residence permits, known as Green Cards, can receive are: Medicaid for people with low income or disabilities; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Supplemental Security Income; and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Receiving assistance from those programs could even harm an immigrant’s application for a Green Card under a proposal by the Homeland Security Department designed to block documented immigrants from obtaining residence if they or their children receive public benefits, including food stamps and early childhood education programs.
“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 argued.
The revised USCIS guidance for the issuance of NTAs, which the agency says was designed to enforce President Donald Trump’s priorities of immigration policies, will increase and speed up deportation procedures, according to immigration experts.
U.S. authorities are also targeting permanent residents who apply for citizenship.
The USCIS policy memorandum indicated that its employees will have more leeway to start deportation procedures for immigrants whose citizenship applications are denied on good moral character grounds.
They include “applicants convicted of aggravated felonies prior to November 29, 1990, or applicants convicted of deportable offenses after obtaining lawful permanent resident (LPR) status,” it added.
In a statement that accompanied the release of the memorandum to the media, agency director L. Francis Cissna said: “For too long, USCIS officers uncovering instances of fraudulent or criminal activity have been limited in their ability to help ensure U.S. immigration laws are faithfully executed. This updated policy equips USCIS officers with clear guidance they need and deserve to support the enforcement priorities established by the president, keep our communities safe, and protect the integrity of our immigration system from those seeking to exploit it.”