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Trump Proposal to Penalize Immigrants for Accepting Public Benefits, Including Tax Credits

trumpAn immigration proposal currently being considered by the Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would penalize immigrants who accept almost any type of public benefits, including a popular tax credit, which could result in the rejection of their legal U.S. residency application.

Under a draft proposal obtained by The Washington Post, the DHS would expand the definition of “public benefit” to include health insurance, federal housing subsidies, and the earned income tax credit, which benefits low- and moderate-income employees. This would allow immigration caseworkers to include a wider range of factors when determining whether immigrants and/or their citizen children are using any public benefits or may be likely to use them.

At present, the law penalizes immigrants who receive welfare payments, labeling them a “public charge.” Under the DHS’s proposal, changes would apply to anyone seeking immigration visas or legal permanent residency, such as foreign nationals with expiring work visas.

While these changes are inconsequential to undocumented immigrants, they could have serious repercussions to immigrants under the protection of the ­Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program should they go through the legal immigration process. And this could happen sooner than later, what with DACA’s termination being blocked by temporary injunctions issued by federal courts.

These policy changes could also mean that immigrants and their families facing financial crises will have no choice but to forego federal assistance to avoid jeopardizing their current or future application for U.S. residency status. Moreover, the Trump administration’s proposal would require immigrants to post cash bonds should they be found to have a higher likelihood of requiring or accepting public benefits. According to the proposal, the minimum cash bond amount would be set at $10,000, but this can be higher if an applicant is found to have a greater risk of neediness.

Homeland Security officials point out that the details of the proposal have yet to be finalized. The changes, however, are part of the Trump administration’s aggressive crackdown on both illegal and legal immigration, much to the delight of groups who believe that immigrants are a burden on the federal budget and “steal” American jobs.

According to DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman, “The administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer by ensuring that foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the U.S. are self-sufficient. Any proposed changes would ensure that the government takes the responsibility of being good stewards of taxpayer funds seriously and adjudicates immigration benefit requests in accordance with the law.”

If you would like to learn more about how this policy change might affect your legal residency or citizenship application, don’t hesitate to sit down for a discussion of your rights with the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.