Trump to deny green cards for poorer mi­grants

New cri­te­ria to take ef­fect on Oct. 15

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front Page -

WASH­ING­TON — Le­gal im­mi­grants who use public ben­e­fits — such as Med­i­caid, food stamps or hous­ing as­sis­tance — could have a tougher time ob­tain­ing a green card un­der a pol­icy change an­nounced Mon­day that is at the cen­ter of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­fort to re­duce im­mi­gra­tion lev­els.

The new cri­te­ria for “Inad­mis­si­bil­ity on Public Charge Grounds,” due to take ef­fect Oct. 15, will set new stan­dards for ap­pli­cants seek­ing le­gal per­ma­nent res­i­dency in the U. S. — cri­te­ria that will skew the process in fa­vor of the highly skilled, high- in­come im­mi­grants Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump cov­ets. Since its first days, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has been seek­ing ways to weed out im­mi­grants the pres­i­dent sees as un­de­sir­able, in­clud­ing those who might draw on tax­payer- funded ben­e­fits.

Wealth, ed­u­ca­tion, age and English skills will take on greater

im­por­tance in the process of ob­tain­ing a green card, which is the main hur­dle in the path to cit­i­zen­ship. U. S. im­mi­gra­tion law has long­stand­ing pro­vi­sions to screen out for­eign­ers who might be so­ci­etal bur­dens, but the dra­matic change amounts to an ex­pan­sion of the govern­ment’s def­i­ni­tion of “public charge” — and who is deemed likely to be­come one.

Ken Cuc­cinelli, the act­ing di­rec­tor of U. S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices, said at a White House brief­ing that his agency is seek­ing to bring pre­ci­sion to an ex­ist­ing tenet of law that has lacked a clear def­i­ni­tion.

“Through the public charge rule, Pres­i­dent Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­in­forc­ing the ideals of self­suf­fi­ciency and per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity, en­sur­ing that im­mi­grants are able to sup­port them­selves and be­come suc­cess­ful here in Amer­ica,” said Mr. Cuc­cinelli, evok­ing his own fam­ily’s Ital­ian an­ces­try to char­ac­ter­ize pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions of im­mi­grants as boot­strap- pullers. “This ad­min­is­tra­tion is pro­mot­ing our shared his­tory and en­cour­ag­ing the core val­ues needed to make the Amer­i­can dream a re­al­ity.”

The move is part of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sys­tem­atic ef­fort to add new bu­reau­cratic ob­sta­cles to the U. S. im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem at the same time the pres­i­dent wants to put phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers along the Mex­ico bor­der.

An­a­lysts say the public charge change could dra­mat­i­cally re­duce fam­ily - based le­gal im­mi­gra­tion to the U. S., par­tic­u­larly from Latin Amer­ica and Africa, where in­comes are gen­er­ally lower than the rest of the world. It also could lead to an in­crease in de­por­ta­tions as those present with some form of pro­vi­sional or tem­po­rary im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus in the United States are de­nied le­gal res­i­dency.

A USCIS of­fi­cial said the change will have lit­tle to no ef­fect on those who al­ready have per­ma­nent res­i­dent sta­tus who are seek­ing to be­come nat­u­ral­ized U. S. cit­i­zens. “Nat­u­ral­iza­tion ap­pli­cants are not sub­ject to a new ad­mis­si­bil­ity de­ter­mi­na­tion and there­fore are not gen­er­ally sub­ject to public charge de­ter­mi­na­tions,” said the of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the of­fi­cial was not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly.

But ad­vo­cates for im­mi­grants say the new rule could nar­row the pool of peo­ple who are el­i­gi­ble for green cards, which are nec­es­sary to get on the path to U. S. cit­i­zen­ship, ef­fec­tively block­ing im­mi­grants who live in poverty from hav­ing a chance at nat­u­ral­iza­tion. Nat­u­ral­iza­tion ap­pli­ca­tions spiked dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, which some called the “Trump ef­fect” be­cause many im­mi­grants were ea­ger to vote.

Mr. Cuc­cinelli said the change would ben­e­fit U. S. tax­pay­ers by se­lect­ing bet­ter can­di­dates for U. S. cit­i­zen­ship, by en­sur­ing “that our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem is bring­ing peo­ple to join us as Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, as le­gal per­ma­nent res­i­dents first, who can stand on their own two feet.”

The rule cir­cum­vents ear­lier, failed ef­forts by the ad­min­is­tra­tion to build sup­port in Con­gress for a sim­i­lar “merit- based” over­haul to the im­mi­grant visa sys­tem, and it ful­fills a long­time goal of se­nior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and other im­mi­gra­tion hawks who have sought new tools to re­duce im­mi­gra­tion lev­els.

Evan Vucci/ As­so­ci­ated Press

The act­ing di­rec­tor of U. S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices, Ken Cuc­cinelli, speaks Mon­day dur­ing a news brief­ing at the White House.

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