The Trump administration has proposed new regulations that could see U.S. legal immigrants who “primarily depend” on public benefits such as food stamps and welfare deported.
The move, seen as part of an effort to restrict immigration by low-income people, would reverse long-standing policy and allow the government to “strictly enforce” laws to limit legal immigration by migrants who rely on public funds.
A Department of Justice draft regulation, seen by Reuters, dramatically expands the category of people who could be subject to deportation.
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Daily Mail reports: Currently, those legal permanent residents who are declared to be a ‘public charge,’ or primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, can be deported – but in practice, this is very rare.
The draft regulation would use a more expansive definition to include some immigrants who have used an array of public benefits, including cash welfare, food stamps, housing aid, or Medicaid.
While the plan is at an early stage, might not become official government policy, and is likely to attract lawsuits, it is one part of efforts by the Trump administration to restrict legal immigration, in addition to its efforts to reduce illegal immigration to the United States.
The full possible impact is not known, but the change in policy could affect permanent residents – also known as ‘green card’ holders – who are legally entitled to use public benefits soon after their arrival in the United States, such as refugees.
A Department of Justice spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
U.S. law allows for the deportation of immigrants who have become ‘public charges’ within five years of admission if their reason for seeking help preceded their entry to the United States – for example, if they had a chronic health condition that was not disclosed.
But due to a 1948 ruling, the deportation of immigrants for using public benefits has been strictly limited to cases in which the government has demanded payment for public services, and the person has failed to pay.
Immigration lawyers said they have rarely if ever heard of someone being deported for using public benefits.
The draft rule indicates the government would override that precedent to allow for deportation of some permanent residents who have used certain public benefits within five years of admission.
For the plan to go into effect, it would be subject to public comment, after which it could be revised. Attorney General William Barr would then have to sign off on it.
The public benefits in question include Supplemental Security Income (SSI), given to disabled and older people; the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps; Section 8 housing vouchers; many Medicaid benefits; and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a cash assistance program.
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