Trump admin bypasses Congress with new policy targeting immigrants on public assistance
The Trump administration announced over the weekend that immigrants who legally use public aid such as food assistance programs and section 8 housing would have this used against them in green card applications in its newest attempt at keeping Black and brown people out of the country. This new policy could potentially force millions of people who survive off of these programs to stop using them out of fear they could be deported or denied a renewal of their green card status.
According to the New York Times, the new policy posted to the Department of Homeland Security website requires for the first time that the government weighs the use of public programs as a set of “heavily weighed negative factors” against their residency applications. Even though the move would not officially affect those who already use these programs, advocates are concerned that people will stop using them in order to protect their residency status. Older immigrants who use the Medicare Part D program to obtain low-cost prescription drugs are particularly at risk of being forced to choose between survival and being labeled a public charge, which makes them ineligible for legal resident status.
Trump administration officials say that the crackdowns are anticipated to affect approximately 382,000 people a year, but a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation—which used a draft of the proposal that is even broader than the changes announced on Saturday—estimated that approximately 20 million children could be affected by the new proposal. It’s the latest move in a long line designed to eliminate the participation of immigrants in the American economy.
In limited cases, immigrants could be asked to pay a $10,000 cash bond in order to avoid being denied their green cards, but critics point out that if they are already on public assistance this money will be nearly impossible to come by. This regulation does not need to be voted on by a legislative body such as Congress, but is subject to a public review process. Officials have indicated they expect the new rules to go into effect following the 60-day review period.
Jackie Vimo, a policy analyst with the National Immigration Law Center criticized the move, telling the New York Times, “This is an attack on immigrant families and an attempt to make our immigration system a pay-to-play system where only the wealthy need apply… This is a radical transformation of our immigration, and does a runaround on Congress.”
The rule’s focus on public benefits is a play straight out the conservative Republican playbook, as they have argued for years that public benefit programs like SNAP and section 8 are rife with fraud. Governor Jay Inslee of Washington wrote a letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget in April expressing concern over this proposal, stating, “The proposal is clearly intended to deny basic supports like food, health care and housing to lawfully present immigrants and their families — including millions of children and U.S. citizens — who pay taxes, work, go to school and contribute to our country’s economy.”
A similar letter was also written by Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan urging the director to reconsider accepting this proposed rule change. Durkan states in the letter, “I believe this is bad public policy and impinges on the rights of local governments… If additional programs were to be included as factors in a public charge determination, we expect that many people—including eligible U.S. citizen children—who are legally eligible to participate in these programs would unenroll or refrain from applying. These changes would increase hunger and uncompensated care and impact our schools, child welfare agencies, public health systems, and hospitals.”