The Trump administration introduced a new rule Monday that would give priority to wealthier legal immigrants in obtaining a green card and make it harder for those relying on food stamps or Medicaid to do the same.
According to Acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, the plan would ensure that immigrants are “self-sufficient” and do not rely on public resources. He added that the administration had carefully reviewed the public charge inadmissibility rule – part of the American immigration law for over 100 years – the parameters of which were significantly redefined Monday.
The term “public charge” refers to a person who is primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, and the revised rule now includes those relying on food stamps, Medicaid or housing subsidies, CNBC writes.
The final version of the restrictions to be published Wednesday will apply to applications submitted on or after October 15. The USCIS website says, however, that refugees and asylum seekers will not be affected by the new rule.
Legal immigrants who use public benefits for more than a year in any three-year period, obtaining a green card will be considerably more difficult, unlike for those with household income, assets and resources, whose chances of staying in the U.S. and becoming American citizens will increase.
The White House defended the decision, saying that the rule dates back to the “Clinton-era.”
“President @realDonaldTrump will enforce a Clinton-era law to ensure that non-citizens do not abuse our public benefit programs and jeopardize the safety net needed by vulnerable Americans,” a tweet posted on the White House’s official account read.
But groups have already announced lawsuits against the administration’s new rule, which the National Immigration Law Center called “cruel.”
“This news is a cruel new step toward weaponizing programs that are intended to help people by making them, instead, a means of separating families and sending immigrants and communities of color one message: you are not welcome here,” Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement.
Another lawsuit is expected to come from New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who also said in a tweet that the new law was “patently un-American.”
Meanwhile, Representative Norma Torres said the new regulation was “an excuse to rid the country of people who look like me.” Torres said in a Monday tweet that the plan targets people of color and punishes people who rely on “assistance to make ends meet.”
“Rather than looking at them through the lens of this is what every other citizen in the country is suffering because we have not raised the federal minimum wage in a long time, and because the cost of doing business keeps rising, and everything is costing more — rather than looking at it through that lens, he wants to punish them,” Torres said.
She stressed that the policy was “simply not sustainable” and noted that it could only come from a person who has never faced financial difficulties in their life and has “grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth.”