People who legally use food stamps or housing vouchers could be denied green cards under new proposed rules announced Saturday by the Trump administration.
The proposal, called “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” represents the latest effort by the administration to crack down not only on illegal immigration, but legal immigration as part of a strategy to tighten the border. The administration says the rule would affect about 382,000 people per year.
Proposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the new rule would allow immigration officials to refuse admission and deny extensions to those who might become “public charges.”
People who apply for green cards have always had to prove they would not be a burden, and a 1999 rule sought to prevent people from getting green cards if they were considered likely to need financial assistance from the government.
But this would be the first time that the use of food stamps and Section 8 housing assistance would be considered negative factors in deciding whether someone should be given a green card.
The late Saturday announcement drew quick reaction from Democrats and immigration activists, who called the proposed move a baseless attack on immigrants.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said in a statement that it showed the administration is “selling the lie that immigrants weaken the U.S. economy when exactly the opposite is true.”
“From the first day of the Trump campaign, the message has been that immigrants are a danger and a drain. Trump wants you to think Latinos and immigrants are rapists and murderers, they vote illegally against him, they are lazy and at the same time are stealing American jobs,” he said.
Among those most affected will be elderly immigrants who depend on Medicare Part D for low-cost prescription drugs, according to The New York Times.
In a news release, the DHS said the rule is designed ensure self-sufficiency from immigrants.
“[The rule will] ensure that those seeking to enter and remain in the United States either temporarily or permanently can support themselves financially and will not be reliant on public benefits,” the statement read.
The move would not affect those who have already received green cards, but there is a fear among immigration advocates that legal residents might feel the need to stop using public benefits to protect their status.
There will now be a 60-day comment period following the release of the proposal during which United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will continue to apply the current public charge policy.
Rafael Bernal contributed to this report.