Trump Administration Proposal Blocks Green Card & Visa Applicants Who Use Public Benefits

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a plan which could make immigrants applying for green cards and visas ineligible if they use, or considered likely to use specific public benefits. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement that the government plans to enforce a federal law which mandates foreigners to provide evidence of being financially self-sufficient.

The Trump Administration plans to change the definition of a “public charge” to include more types of government aid, such as food stamps, public housing and rental assistance, and Medicaid. While the current rule applies to anyone who primarily depends on government aid such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the new rule would begin denying temporary visas and green cards to those who are considered likely to receive any public assistance in the future.

Under the proposed changed, the following would be deemed as “negative factors” which can result in a public charge:

  • Current or previous use of specific types of government aid
  • Being younger than 18 years of age
  • Being older than 61 years old
  • Have a health condition which could impede work and school obligations
  • Cannot cover the health condition with their own financial resources
  • Financially liable
  • Have a low credit score
  • Have several children and other dependents
  • No work history
  • No high school or college diploma
  • No proper education and skills for employment
  • Cannot speak English
  • Uses the DHS application fee waiver
  • DHS considers the financial sponsor unlikely to commit

The term was first lawfully addressed in the Immigration Act of 1882, instructing local port officers to deny individuals who cannot take care of themselves without becoming a public charge. In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton signed a law (i.e. Immigration and Naturalization Service) which defines a public charge as anyone who primarily relies on government assistance, meaning receiving cash benefits over half of their income or long-term health care at the expense of the government.

46,450 green card applications were denied in 2000 during the Bush administration. By President Bush’s final year in office, that figure decreased to 6,852. The Obama administration continued the downward trend with only over a thousand denials due to public charge in President Obama’s last year.

The proposed rule could take effect in a few months. However, with the midterm elections looming, Congress could potentially hold off on making a decision on the measure.

For more information about green cards and visas in Texas, contact our Houston immigration attorney at Fong • Ilagan today.

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