US govt’s vow to cut red tape doesn't ex­tend to le­gal im­mi­grants

Business Standard - - WORLD - JEN­NIFER A DLOUHY

A Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­posal to make it harder for le­gal im­mi­grants to re­main in the US could cause thou­sands of them to forgo $2.3 bil­lion worth of food stamps and other gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance each year.

But even with that ap­par­ent tax­payer sav­ings, it still could be the costli­est reg­u­la­tion the ad­min­is­tra­tion has pro­posed. That’s be­cause of the pa­per­work bur­den it would im­pose on im­mi­grants and the way the gov­ern­ment mea­sures the costs and ben­e­fits of reg­u­la­tions.

The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity mea­sure would make it more dif­fi­cult for le­gal im­mi­grants to get green cards au­tho­riz­ing them to per­ma­nently re­main in the U.S. if they use pub­lic aid pro­grammes.

The pro­posal, ex­pected to af­fect some 383,000 peo­ple an­nu­ally, would boost the odds that U.S. ci­ti­zen­ship of­fi­cers would deem any le­gal im­mi­grant a “pub­lic charge” — some­one de­pen­dent on the gov­ern­ment for as­sis­tance — mak­ing that per­son in­el­i­gi­ble for le­gal res­i­dent sta­tus as a re­sult.

The plan aligns with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s crack­down on im­mi­gra­tion -both le­gal and il­le­gal -- and is in keep­ing with the wishes of some hard-line ad­vo­cates wor­ried about a wave of low-skilled im­mi­grants tak­ing ad­van­tage of the U.S.

It also dove­tails with con­ser­va­tive pushes to rein in fed­eral as­sis­tance, be­cause many im­mi­grants would be so wor­ried about risk­ing their shot at green cards that they would forgo fed­eral aid. The Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment ac­knowl­edges there is a po­ten­tial “chill­ing ef­fect” that would dis­cour­age im­mi­grants from us­ing pub­lic ben­e­fits pro­grams.

“Those seek­ing to im­mi­grate to the United States must show they can sup­port them­selves fi­nan­cially,” Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen said. The pro­posal aims to “pro­mote im­mi­grant self-suf­fi­ciency and pro­tect fi­nite re­sources by en­sur­ing that they are not likely to be­come bur­dens on Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers.”

Some 2.5 per­cent of af­fected im­mi­grants would opt out of the gov­ern­ment pro­grams as a re­sult, ac­cord­ing to the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s es­ti­mates, po­ten­tially prevent­ing the pay­out of some $19.3 bil­lion in aid over the next decade, es­ti­mated at a 3 per­cent dis­count rate. Even so, the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s an­a­lysts say the rule would cost so­ci­ety more than it saves.

Al­though fed­eral and state gov­ern­ments would dole out less aid, the un­spent money would be a loss for the im­mi­grants, mak­ing the change a wash for the gov­ern­ment an­a­lysts cal­cu­lat­ing the cost and ben­e­fits of fed­eral rules across so­ci­ety. Un­der their ac­count­ing prac­tices, the an­a­lysts haven’t treated those fore­gone trans­fer pay­ments as a ben­e­fit since they “do not di­rectly af­fect to­tal re­sources avail­able to so­ci­ety.”

In­stead, the gov­ern­ment’s anal­y­sis says the rule would ac­tu­ally im­pose big costs on so­ci­ety -- largely by forc­ing im­mi­grants to spend hours upon hours com­plet­ing de­tailed pa­per­work in­stead of work­ing and other ac­tiv­i­ties. For in­stance, the gov­ern­ment an­tic­i­pates each im­mi­grant sub­ject to the pro­posed rule would spend, on av­er­age, four and a half hours just fill­ing out a sin­gle new form track­ing their as­sets and fi­nan­cial sta­tus, with the op­por­tu­nity cost of that time cal­cu­lated at $47.97 per ap­pli­cant.

The to­tal pos­si­ble price tag: $1.1 bil­lion over a decade. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s own anal­y­sis es­ti­mates that all of that lost time fill­ing out pa­per­work, the cost of get­ting credit re­ports and other ef­fects mean the rule would have a direct net cost of $318 mil­lion to $1.1 bil­lion over 10 years, when dis­counted to re­flect 2018 dol­lars.

If fi­nal­ized, the rule would be­come one of the most ex­pen­sive Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion reg­u­la­tions yet, based on a sur­vey of pro­posed and fi­nal rules.

REUTERS

The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity mea­sure would make it more dif­fi­cult for le­gal im­mi­grants to get green cards au­tho­riz­ing them to per­ma­nently re­main in the US if they use pub­lic aid pro­grammes

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