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New Immigration Policy Could Deny Entry to Immigrants Likely to Use Public Benefits

The Department of Homeland Security has proposed a new regulation that would change the way the government evaluates whether an applying immigrant is “not likely to be a public charge,” making it even more difficult for foreigners trying to enter the United States or obtain a green card.

The Trump administration expressed its plans to broaden the definition of “public charge,” arguing that its current scope has allowed countless immigration applications to go through. The proposed definition would mandate a deep-dive into a would-be immigrant’s history and economic circumstances to determine whether they are likely to end up a state liability once on US soil.

The new regulation revolves around the government’s current take on the public benefits that immigrants may likely avail of. At present, regulations only include cash benefits, which not even 5 percent of immigrants use. The proposed definition will, however, include Medicaid, food stamps, housing benefits, and subsidies for low-income earners in Medicare Part D.

Availing of these benefits before the expanded definition comes into effect will not hurt an immigrant’s chances of obtaining lawful permanent residence. The government claims that there is a certain threshold before one becomes classified as a liability.

One of the indirect impacts of changing the definition is the expected drop in immigrants availing of vital public services like basic medical care and other public benefits that their families and even US citizen children are eligible for. In fact, immigrants have been dropping out of nutrition programs for their children and other benefits after rumors of a Trump crackdown circulated in early September.

“When any population that’s potentially eligible for this program is either driven away by changes in regulation or legislation or simply by political rhetoric inducing fear, there are huge personal consequences to those babies and their families,” laments Rev. Douglas Greenaway, president and CEO of the National WIC Association.

In response to these concerns, the new regulation is only set to take an inventory of benefits an immigrant receives and uses for herself. This means that benefits immigrants avail of for their household will not be taken against them.

This change grants US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) greater arbitrary discretion over the outcome of an immigration or green card application. Immigration officers can now deny applications if they feel that the immigrant will not be able to financially support a family or shoulder their own medical care while in the US.

The administration is expected to publish the draft rule on Monday in the Federal Register to commence a 60-day period of public comment.

If you would like to learn more about this latest update to U.S. immigration policy, or have a loved one seeking a green card you would like to help, sit down for a consultation with the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to talk to Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.

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