Trump Wants To Deny Green Cards To Immigrants Who Use Public Assistance

by Thea Glassman
Image via Ridofranz/Getty

The potential new policy could also affect immigrants who have already obtained a green card

The Trump administration wants to make it even harder for immigrants to live in the United States legally. They’ve proposed a new rule that would deny green cards for immigrants who’ve used benefits like Medicaid, food stamps, and public housing. That means that people who are already struggling financially will have to make the decision between important, life-saving resources and lawful U.S. residence.

This new rule revises a 1999 rule which limits immigrants ability to obtain a green card if they used cash benefits. According to the Department of Homeland Security, a more sweeping set of restrictions would “ensure that those seeking to enter and remain in the United States either temporarily or permanently can support themselves financially and will not be reliant on public benefits.”

It also means that millions of immigrants will lose their chance to live in the United States legally just because they need some financial help.

“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,” Jackie Vimo, a policy analyst with the National Immigration Law Center, tells The New York Times. “This is a radical transformation of our immigration, and does a runaround on Congress.”

Public benefits aren’t the only dealbreakers for immigrants. The rule would also work against people who have heart problems, cancer, and mental health conditions. “An alien is at high risk of becoming a public charge if he or she has a medical condition and is unable to show evidence of unsubsidized health insurance,” the proposal noted.

The rule would not affect refugees and legal immigrants in the military. It would, however, affect nearly 20 million children from immigrant families, according to The Kaiser Foundation. Just for reference: over 8 million children with citizenship come from an immigrant family who uses Medicaid. If the administration scares parents away from using public health coverage, then they’re leaving so, so many children vulnerable.

Many immigrant activists noted that the Trump administration isn’t taking into consideration the fact that immigrants make up a large portion of hardworking, productive members of society. Immigrants who are authorized to work in the United States pay taxes. Just because some immigrants need extra financial help doesn’t detract from the important contributions they’re making to the economy.

“How you contribute to your community — and not what you look like or the contents of your wallet — should be what matters most,” Marielena Hincapie of the National Immigration Law Center, told NBC News. “This proposed rule does the opposite, and makes clear that the Trump administration continues to prioritize money over family unity by ensuring that only the wealthiest can afford to build a future in this country.”