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Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion rule likely to face court chal­lenges

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By De­bra J. Saun­ders Re­view-jour­nal White House Cor­re­spon­dent

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is pro­mul­gat­ing a new rule that would al­low the govern­ment to take into con­sid­er­a­tion whether le­gal im­mi­grants have re­ceived wel­fare as­sis­tance in re­cent years when de­cid­ing whether to grant green cards.

Act­ing Di­rec­tor of U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices Ken Cuc­cinelli told re­porters Mon­day morning that the idea is to re­serve le­gal im­mi­gra­tion for in­di­vid­u­als “who can stand on their own two feet, who will not be re­liant on the wel­fare sys­tem.”

The so-called public charge rule, which would be­come ef­fec­tive Oct. 15, also could al­low of­fi­cials to deny ad­mis­sion and visa ex­ten­sions to nonci­t­i­zens deemed likely to be­come de­pen­dent on public ben­e­fits.

Lead­ers from both par­ties showed a will­ing­ness to use the is­sue in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Tom Perez re­leased a state­ment that said: “On the sec­ond an­niver­sary of the tragedy in Char­lottesvill­e, Don­ald Trump con­tin­ues to use his power to di­vide us. This time, he’s tar­get­ing doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who are pay­ing taxes and play­ing by the rules. This ac­tion could force im­mi­grant fam­i­lies to choose between putting food on the ta­ble and get­ting the health care they need; it could even force them to leave the coun­try they call home.”

Rep. Steven Hors­ford, D-nev., said he would fight the change.

“This fight isn’t over. We must con­tinue to stand up, speak out, and fight back to pro­tect im­mi­grant fam­i­lies,” he said in a state­ment re­leased by his of­fice. “This reg­u­la­tion forces mil­lions of fam­i­lies to choose between the food, shel­ter and health care they need and the peo­ple they love. I will con­tinue work­ing to se­cure im­mi­grants’ rights across the coun­try, and to pro­tect the fu­ture for the 40,000 im­mi­grants and 10,000 Dream­ers liv­ing in my district, who need pro­tec­tion from this ad­min­is­tra­tion most.”

‘Rad­i­cal open bor­ders’

In a state­ment, Trump’s re-elec­tion “war room” said, “The 2020 Democrats have planted their flags firmly on the side of il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, push­ing for dan­ger­ous sanc­tu­ary city poli­cies and rad­i­cal open bor­ders while promis­ing free health care for il­le­gal im­mi­grants — all while forc­ing U.S. tax­pay­ers to foot the bill.”

The new rule would not ap­ply to im­mi­grants who are refugees or asy­lum seek­ers, or cer­tain mem­bers of the mil­i­tary. It also would not pe­nal­ize un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants if an­other fam­ily mem­ber re­ceived public ben­e­fits.

The 837-page rule is bound to be chal­lenged in fed­eral courts.

Ac­tivists on both sides of the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue weighed in Mon­day.

“Just a week af­ter a ter­ror­ist at­tack in which a white su­prem­a­cist killed 22 peo­ple in El Paso and specif­i­cally tar­geted the Latino com­mu­nity, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has launched its most rad­i­cal at­tempt yet to harm im­mi­grant fam­i­lies and fur­ther its anti-im­mi­grant agenda,” said Philip E. Wol­gin, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Im­mi­gra­tion Pol­icy at the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress, in a state­ment.

The White House main­tained the rule “will pro­tect Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers, pre­serve our so­cial safety net for vul­ner­a­ble Amer­i­cans, and up­hold the rule of law.”

And Mark Kriko­rian, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, said in a state­ment, “There are hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple who want to move to the United States, and this rule en­sures that we al­low in only those who will be able to pay their own bills.”

The rule would not ap­ply to ap­pli­ca­tions filed be­fore Oct. 15. For those fil­ing on or af­ter Oct. 15, Cuc­cinelli said, im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials would con­sider “cur­rent and past re­ceipt of des­ig­nated public ben­e­fits while in the United States as a neg­a­tive fac­tor when ex­am­in­ing ap­pli­ca­tions.”

Im­mi­gra­tion ‘a net plus’

Re­ceiv­ing a sin­gle wel­fare ben­e­fit for less than a year would not be a dis­qual­i­fier by it­self. But re­ceiv­ing cer­tain ben­e­fits — such as Sup­ple­men­tal Se­cu­rity In­come, food stamps, most forms of Med­i­caid or cer­tain hous­ing as­sis­tance — over a 12-month pe­riod within three years of an ap­pli­ca­tion “would be a heav­ily neg­a­tive fac­tor,” Cuc­cinelli said.

At the same time, im­mi­grants with pri­vate health in­surance would gain points.

“We know that most im­mi­grants are net plus” for the econ­omy, said Ken Oliver, se­nior di­rec­tor of the

Texas Public Pol­icy Foun­da­tion’s group Right on Im­mi­gra­tion. He said the rule would make sure safety-net pro­grams “don’t be­come a mag­net for nonci­t­i­zens to use.”

“I think this is go­ing to prove that the vast ma­jor­ity of ap­pli­cants are eco­nom­i­cally self-suf­fi­cient,” Oliver told the Las Ve­gas Re­view-jour­nal.

The mea­sure al­lows ap­pli­cants to sub­mit public charge bonds of $8,100 or more.

Erin Quinn, se­nior staff at­tor­ney at the Im­mi­grant Le­gal Re­source Cen­ter, said of the rule, “While many im­mi­grant fam­i­lies will re­main el­i­gi­ble for needed ser­vices and not legally im­pacted by this change, the chill­ing ef­fect of this rule will cause many fam­i­lies to dis-en­roll chil­dren and el­i­gi­ble in­di­vid­u­als form crit­i­cal health­care cov­er­age and ser­vices.”

Asked for an ex­am­ple, the cen­ter said: “An im­mi­grant mar­ried to a U.S. cit­i­zen who is el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for per­ma­nent res­i­dency must now worry about the im­pact of this rule. Such a fam­ily will have to weigh the ben­e­fits of par­tic­i­pat­ing in safety net pro­grams that help their fam­ily stay healthy and the pos­si­ble neg­a­tive im­pact at the time the per­son goes to ad­just sta­tus to be­come a per­ma­nent res­i­dent.

“The rule is con­fus­ing and does not lay out clear stan­dards to make a de­ci­sion about whether some­one might be­come a public charge in the fu­ture, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to know what will hap­pen if the per­son files to be­come a per­ma­nent res­i­dent.”

Rule long on the books

The White House ar­gues that the public charge rule has been on the books since the 1800s and cod­i­fies the in­tent of two 1996 mea­sures signed by Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton with the ex­pec­ta­tion that new im­mi­grants would not ex­ploit public ben­e­fits.

The move is in keep­ing with Trump’s fo­cus on push­ing U.S. im­mi­gra­tion away from fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion in fa­vor of a “merit-based” fo­cus on find­ing mi­grants with the skills that meet the needs of U.S. la­bor mar­kets.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2016 study by the Na­tional Academy of Sciences, 58 per­cent of households headed by a nonci­t­i­zen use at least one wel­fare pro­gram.

A June 2017 poll by Ras­mussen Re­ports found that 62 per­cent of likely vot­ers sup­port bar­ring new im­mi­grants from re­ceiv­ing wel­fare ben­e­fits for at least five years.

“The heavy use of wel­fare by im­mi­grant households is not the re­sult of lazi­ness or some other moral short­com­ing; im­mi­grants are as likely to work as na­tive-born Amer­i­cans,” said Kriko­rian, of the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies. “In­stead, it is the in­evitable re­sult of ad­mit­ting peo­ple with lit­tle ed­u­ca­tion, mean­ing that they will have low earn­ings in a modern, knowl­edge-based econ­omy.”

The final rule was an­nounced dur­ing the first White House brief­ing since March 11.

When a reporter asked Cuc­cinelli about the Statue of Lib­erty plaque that in­vites “your tired, your poor, your hud­dled masses” to the United States, Cuc­cinelli said that “I’m cer­tainly not pre­pared to take any­thing down off the Statue of Lib­erty. We have a long his­tory of be­ing one of the most wel­com­ing na­tions in the world.”

Con­tact De­bra J. Saun­ders at dsaun­[email protected]­viewjour­nal. com or at 202-662-7391. Fol­low @De­bra­jsaun­ders on Twit­ter.

K.M. Can­non Las Ve­gas Re­view-jour­nal @Km­can­non­photo

Cheney Jiang works on his self-por­trait Mon­day in Katie Rios’ kinder­garten class at Bon­ner El­e­men­tary School, which has a new build­ing that re­placed 15 porta­bles on cam­pus. The school year opened on Mon­day for the Clark County School District.

Ken Cuc­cinelli

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