The Trump administration is proposing denying permanent residence to hundreds of legal immigrants who receive federal or state aid in a new strategy aimed at reducing legal immigration.
According to a draft by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), this measure will apply even if the children of those immigrants who receive such benefits are U.S.-born.
The new strategy seeks to 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.
In 2016, 383,000 immigrants were receiving public benefits and would have been impacted by this rule had it been in place then causing them to be denied permanent residence.
“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.
The drafts also states that receiving public assistance could impair the case of the immigrants applying for permanent residence.
According to a U.S. Immigration spokesperson who spoke to Reuters who first published the report, 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.
Currently, immigration officials do not consider non-cash assistance such as food stamps and preschool subsidies as a disqualification for permanent residence. There are certain public benefits that automatically disqualify an immigrant from receiving permanent residence.
The report by Reuters said that experts and officials 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.