The Washington Post

More immigratio­n measures weighed

Draft orders target those getting or likely to get public assistance

- BY ABIGAIL HAUSLOHNER AND JANELL ROSS David Nakamura contribute­d to this report.

The Trump administra­tion is considerin­g a plan to weed out would-be immigrants who are likely to require public assistance, as well as to deport — when possible — immigrants already living in the United States who depend on taxpayer help, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Washington Post.

A second draft order under considerat­ion calls for a substantia­l shake-up in the system through which the United States administer­s immigrant and nonimmigra­nt visas, with the aim of tightly controllin­g who enters the country and who can enter the workforce, and reducing the social services burden on U.S. taxpayers.

The drafts are circulatin­g among administra­tion officials, and it is unclear whether President Trump has decided to move forward with them or when he might sign them if he does decide to put them in place. The White House would not confirm or deny the authentici­ty of the orders, and White House officials did not respond to requests for comment about the drafts Monday and Tuesday.

If enacted, the executive orders would appear to significan­tly restrict all types of immigratio­n and foreign travel to the United States, expanding bars on entry to the country that Trump ordered last week with his temporary ban on refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

While last week’s move focused on national security and preventing terrorism, the new draft orders would be focused on Trump’s campaign promises to protect American workers and to create jobs, immediatel­y restrictin­g the flow of immigrants and temporary laborers into the U.S. workforce. The administra­tion has accused immigrants who end up receiving U.S. social services of eating up federal resources, and it has said that immigrant workers contribute to unemployme­nt among Americans who were born in the United States.

“Our country’s immigratio­n laws are designed to protect American taxpayers and promote immigrant self-sufficienc­y. Yet households headed by aliens are much more likely than those headed by citizens to use Federal means-tested public benefits,” reads one draft order obtained by The Post, titled “Executive Order on Protecting Taxpayer Resources by Ensuring Our Immigratio­n Laws Promote Accountabi­lity and Responsibi­lity.”

The draft order provides no evidence to support the claim that immigrant households are more likely to use welfare benefits, and there is no consensus among experts about immigratio­n’s impact on such benefits or on U.S. jobs.

The administra­tion would be seeking to “deny admission to any alien who is likely to become a public charge” and to develop standards for “determinin­g whether an alien is deportable . . . for having become a public charge within five years of entry” — receiving a certain amount of public assistance, including food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid.

The second order, titled “Executive Order on Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthen­ing the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” calls for “eliminatin­g” the “jobs magnet” that is driving illegal immigratio­n to the United States, according to a copy obtained by The Post. The order would rescind any work visa provisions for foreign nationals found not to be in “the national interest” or found to be in violation of U.S. immigratio­n laws.

The order weighs how to make the country’s immigratio­n program “more merit based,” calls for site visits at companies that employ foreign workers, and tasks the Department of Homeland Security with producing a report twice a year on the total number of foreign-born people — not just nonimmigra­nt visa holders — who are authorized to work in the United States.

It also instructs DHS and the State Department to submit a report on “the steps they are taking to combat the birth tourism phenomenon,” meaning instances in which noncitizen­s come to the U.S. to have children who in turn gain citizenshi­p, a popular conservati­ve refrain but one that is dismissed by immigratio­n experts as a relatively minor problem.

Together, the orders would aim to give U.S. citizens priority in the job market by preventing immigrants from taking jobs and by pushing some immigrants out of jobs.

“The unlawful employment of aliens has had a devastatin­g impact on the wages and jobs of American workers, especially lowskilled, teenage, and African American and Hispanic workers,” the draft order says.

Immigratio­n advocates reacted with outrage to the draft documents, warning that if enacted the executive orders could harm the U.S. citizen children of undocument­ed immigrants whose parents could be stripped of public assistance.

“He’s loaded his anti-immigrant Uzi and is firing off another round,” said Angela Maria Kelley, an immigratio­n expert at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “This time he’s aiming at U.S. citizen kids who have an undocument­ed parent, and depending how broad the reach of his order, he could deport kids who have received reduced lunches in school.”

Long-standing U.S. law already makes it difficult for noncitizen­s to receive most forms of public assistance, which limits how many immigrants receive such taxpayer-funded help. For more than 100 years, the country has had a provision that allows federal officials to bar immigrants who, based on a specific formula, seem likely to need public assistance after arrival.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibi­lity and Work Opportunit­y Reconcilia­tion Act, popularly known as “welfare reform.” The law severely restricted all immigrant access to social assistance; those who are in the country illegally are barred from almost any federal program designed for the poor. Legal immigrants must live in the United States for a minimum of five years to become eligible for a limited set of social aid programs, and access to Social Security assistance is rarely granted.

Economists are divided on the extent to which illegal immigratio­n impacts wages, but in general they find that immigratio­n, including by low-skilled workers, is good for the economy.

“The overwhelmi­ng consensus in the economics academic literature is that immigrants add more to the economy than they take, they create more jobs for Americans, and they are a net benefit to the American economy,” said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigratio­n policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertaria­n think tank.

Nor have studies shown immigrants to be a greater drain on federal benefits relative to U.S. citizens, he said: “When you compare poor immigrants to poor natives, poor immigrants are less likely to use welfare, and when they do, the dollar value of the benefits they use is lower.”

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