Trump to deny green cards for poorer migrants
New criteria to take effect on Oct. 15
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.
The acting director of U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, speaks Monday during a news briefing at the White House.