Trump’s Assault on Legal Immigrants Overlooked in Sea of News

Angering immigrant rights and economic equality advocates alike, the Trump administration has made official its proposal to deny permanent residency, or green cards, to immigrants who have used public assistance programs including nutritional or housing aid.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced late Saturday that under the new "Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds" rule, immigrants who have used benefits including the Medicare Part D prescription program; the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps; or Section 8 housing vouchers could be considered ineligible for green cards.

The proposal could force more than 380,000 people to choose between vital assistance programs or the security offered by permanent residency.

"The proposal is reckless, deeply unfair, and inconsistent with core American values," said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy. "It explicitly places a priority on well-off families and ignores families who have waited years to be reunited. This proposal says work and family don't matter—only money matters. And at a time when one-fourth of children in America have at least one immigrant parent, it's a direct attack on children."

The proposal has been expected since this past spring. As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, rumors of the restriction have already had a detrimental effect on immigrant communities, as families across the country have begun to drop out of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), reporting fears that their participation will affect their right to stay in the country.

Some immigrants will be given the option of posting $10,000 in cash bonds to prove that they will not need public assistance—a proposal akin to auctioning off green cards to wealthy immigrants, according to the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).

The new rule is aimed at ensuring that "the availability of public benefits [does] not constitute an incentive for immigration to the United States" and to encourage "self-sufficiency," and is based on the notion that offering assistance to families who arrive in the U.S. will cause a drain on the economy.

As the Washington Post reported, the immigrants receive government benefits at about the same rate as Americans born in the United States.

"Out of the 41.5 million immigrants living in the United States, 3.7 percent received cash benefits in 2013, and 22.7 percent accepted non-cash benefits including Medicaid, housing subsidies or home heating assistance, according to statistics compiled by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services," wrote Nick Miroff at the Post.

Statistics from 2015 show that 3.4 million Americans born in the U.S. received cash benefits, while just over 22 percent used non-cash assistance.

The new regulation will be posted in the Federal Register in the coming weeks and a 60-day comment period will be open to the public before it goes into effect.

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