The dramatic new plans were posted on the Department of Homeland Securities’ website on Sunday.
Under the proposals, immigrants can be denied “lawful permanent residency” in the US if they have received any of a number of state benefits.
These include food stamps, health assistance via Medicaid and temporary financial assistance programmes.
Using these benefits could stop migrants receiving a green card, giving them the right to reside permanently in the US.
According to the 447-page document, titled “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds”, the Department of Homeland Securities said: “Self-sufficiency has been a basic principle of United States immigration law since this country’s earliest immigration statutes.”
It added that US policy states that “the availability of public benefits should not constitute an incentive for immigration to the United States”.
However, the proposals have been attacked by migrant rights groups, which claim they could have a dramatic impact on poor migrants.
A statement from the National Immigration Law Centre said: “President Trump just announced a devastating new proposed regulation that would harm countless immigrant families and all of our nation’s communities.”
The fear from pro-migration campaigners is that poor immigrants will withdraw from public assistance programmes, even if they need the support, due to fear that participation could result in their deportation.
According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, up to 20 million children of immigrant parents, many of them US citizens, could be affected by the change.
Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington, claimed: “The proposal is clearly intended to deny basic supports like food, health care and housing to lawfully present immigrants and their families.
“Including millions of children and US citizens who pay taxes, work, go to school and contribute to our country’s economy.”
Under the new plans, immigration caseworkers will be expected to consider the use of public benefits as a “heavily weighed negative factor” when assessing if migrants should be granted permanent residence in the US.
Those who appear likely to become dependent upon the government are likely to be denied.
However, the move has been welcomed by groups campaigning for tighter immigration control.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Centre for Immigration Studies, commented: “This is long overdue.
“This country has defined public charge in a fictional way in order to facilitate high levels of low-skilled immigration.
“But this is simply a 21st century definition of what public charge is.”