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Trump Follows Up on Pledge to Cut Out “Public Charges”

— August 13, 2019

The administration doesn’t want migrant using public benefits, but they could be dissuading lower-income people from availing themselves of important programs.

The Trump administration has followed up an old promise, releasing a new regulation Monday that’d make it easier for immigration authorities to reject green card applications and renewals. 

The rule, CNN reports, gives officials the option to turn down green card and visa applicants with low incomes and little education. Migrants who’ve used public benefits—like Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance—could also be forced out of the United States for being net drains on the taxpayers’ dollar. 

At its core, the policy is intended to encourage “self-reliance and self-sufficiency” for those seeking to come to or stay in the United States.” 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said the rule doesn’t necessarily discriminate against low-income migrants—rather, it ensures that anyone who wants to come to the United States can support themselves without public assistance. 

“We certainly expect people of any income to be able to stand on their own two feet, so if people are not able to be self-sufficient, than this negative factor is going to bear very heavily against them in a decision about whether they’ll be able to become a legal permanent resident,” Cuccinelli said. 

CNN notes that current regulations—put in place in 1996—do restrict admission of “public charges.” 

A “public charge,” generally, is defined as someone who is “primarily dependent” upon “government assistance” for subsistence. In other words, the government provides more than an individual takes in on their own. 

And furthering the definition of a “public charge” is something the Trump administration has been keen on for months. 

However, immigration activists and advocates have repeatedly blasted the consideration. When Washington first announced its policy expansion, some districts saw migrants withdraw en masse from critically important programs—most afraid of having their chances at citizenship or permanent residency revoked over drawing on welfare. 

CNN adds that Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke was among those who condemned the expansion.

Sign saying "Immigrants make America Great" and one saying "No Hate, No Fear, Refugees are Welcome here;" image by Nitish Meena, via
Sign saying “Immigrants make America Great” and one saying “No Hate, No Fear, Refugees are Welcome here;” image by Nitish Meena, via

“Legal. Undocumented. Refugee. Asylum seeker,” O’Rourke said. “These distinctions don’t matter to President Trump. If you’re an immigrant, he believes you have no place in this country—even though, for 243 years, immigrants have made America the greatest nation the world has ever known.”

As CNN also points out, the policy won’t affect undocumented immigrants anyway—most aren’t qualified to participate in any federal welfare programs whatsoever. 

Exceptions do exist: active members of the U.S. military won’t be punished. Medicaid use won’t count against pregnant women, children under 21 or anyone who winds up in an emergency center. 


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