If legal immigrants in the United States receive certain public social benefits, they could lose the right to obtain permanent residence or green card, the Trump administration proposed Saturday.
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They would not affect people who already have green cards.
The 447-pages guidelines, titled "Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds", published by the Department of Homeland Security on its website, would force millions of immigrants to choose between receiving financial aid or aspiring to get a green card to live and work legally in the United States..
Seniors who receive low-cost prescription drugs through Medicare Part D may also be forced to give up this health benefit or risk being labeled a “public charge” for American taxpayers, which would not be eligible for permanent residency, the New York Times reported.
Some 382,000 legal immigrants would be affected annually by this proposal, part of a series of regulations enacted to curb legal immigration to the United States.
In a statement, DHS said the new guidelines are aimed at promoting self-sufficiency and protecting the pockets of taxpayers.
“Under longstanding federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially,” said Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
“The Department takes seriously its responsibility to be transparent in its rulemaking and is welcoming public comment on the proposed rule. This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers,” she added.
The proposed regulation defines a public charge as a person who receives certain public benefits above certain predefined thresholds or for longer than certain established deadlines.
In a statement released Saturday, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, Marielena Hincapié, said “that the proposed rule “does the opposite and makes clear that the Trump administration continues to prioritize money over family unity by ensuring that only the wealthiest can afford to build a future in this country.”
Current regulations allow immigration officials to consider a narrow range of public benefits in deciding whether 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 have said they are 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.
The proposed rule does not penalize immigrants who get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges, nor those with children under the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as previous leaked drafts of the proposal had mentioned.