USA says will deny citizenship to immigrants who use public benefits

Clay Curtis
August 12, 2019

Posted to the Federal Register, the rule will take effect in 60 days.

The change would dramatically expand the government's definition of the centuries-old term "public charge", effectively making it more hard for certain low-income immigrants to secure permanent residency (green cards) or temporary visas.

Though the rule, which will be implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and immigration agencies run by it, will apply only to foreigners already in the United States, new admissions are expected to be impacted as well, because, experts say the state department "is already applying more expansive public charge requirements to visa applicants overseas, and is expected to fully adopt the DHS standards". It determines that whether an alien is applying for admission or adjustment of status is inadmissible to the country because he or she is likely at any time to become a public charge for availing public assistance schemes like food stamp, Medicaid or housing assistance. It is used as a basis for admissibility into the USA and as a determining factor when someone is trying to adjust their immigration status to obtain legal permanent residency. Cuccinelli said it would have no impact on humanitarian-based immigration programs for refugees and people seeking asylum.

It is likely to impact Indians even though majority are in the United States either on short-term work visas such as the H-1B and on F-1 visas for students, and are able to take care of themselves without assistance from the government.

"For over a century, the public charge ground of inadmissibility has been part of our nation's immigration laws".

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Immigration advocates worry the new rules will scare immigrants into not asking for help.

Marielena Hincapie, of the National Immigration Law Center, described the proposed policy change as "President Trump's attempts to fundamentally transform our immigration system to favor the wealthy".

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli commented on the new rules, stating, "It's a core principle - the American Dream itself - and it's one of the things that distinguishes us, and it's central to the legal history in the U.S. back into the 1800s".

Forty-four House Democrats in June co-sponsored a bill to try to block the rule as it was being developed.

Immigrant advocates have expressed concern the rule could negatively affect public health by dissuading immigrants from using health or food aid to which they or their children are entitled and would have a "chilling effect" on immigrants seeking help for their US citizen children. The definition of public benefits is cash aide including Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and a variety of public housing programs, the fact sheet said. "Through the enforcement of the public charge inadmissibility law, we will promote these long-standing ideals and immigrant success", he added.

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