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Trump Policy Expansion to Target Lawfully Present Immigrants Using Public Benefits

trump-2546104_1280-300x191The Trump Administration is presently looking into adopting a new policy aimed at simplifying the process of denying visa applications on “public charge” grounds. The administration has been gearing up for the change as early as last year. When President Trump made his first attempt at implementing an immigration ban on predominantly Muslim countries in January last year, a supplementary executive order was reportedly already in the works.

While this executive order was never signed or formally released, it was intended to follow through on the President’s immigration platform grounded on the idea that “households headed by aliens (legal and illegal) are much more likely than households headed by native-born citizens to use federal means-tested public benefits.”

The policy has drawn heavy criticism from New York legislators, with more than 70 of them led by Assemblyman Andrew D. Hevesi, collectively publishing an open letter addressed to President Trump where they expressed their opposition to the draft proposal.

“If finalized, these changes would fundamentally and negatively alter who we are as a nation, directly threaten the health and well-being of millions of New Yorkers, and impose a significant economic burden on our state,” the state Assembly members wrote.

Current regulations allow the government to deny individuals seeking either visas or lawful permanent resident status if they are expected to become dependent on the government for support, whether it’s in the form of public cash assistance for income maintenance, or long-term care at the expense of the government.

Cash assistance refers to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and other cash assistance programs provided by a state or local government referred to as “general assistance.”

However, the USCIS Fact Sheet denies that the simple receipt of those benefits will automatically lead to a public charge determination. Instead, it claims that “each determination is made on a case-by-case basis in the context of the totality of the circumstances.”

USCIS does not include government programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), housing benefits, Medicaid, unemployment compensation, and several other related programs in making public charge determinations.

A study by the Migration Policy Institute has also found that native-born and foreign-born Americans use public benefits at the same rate, debunking the assumption that immigrants abuse these benefits upon entry into the country.

The proposed changes expand the list of programs considered in making a public charge determination, now including food stamps, Affordable Care Act and other health care subsidies, as well as transit vouchers. The New York lawmakers pointed out that immigrants with U.S. citizen children are likely to withdraw from healthcare programs.

According to one report, 45 percent of non-citizens in Texas received at least one of the key benefits that could be considered a “public charge” under the draft policy.

If you would like to learn more about this latest update to U.S. immigration policy, or have a loved one seeking green card, don’t hesitate to sit down for a consultation with the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to talk to immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.