A proposal being considered in the White House would make it easier to deport low-income immigrants who are dependent on public benefits.
The Department of Justice has written a draft regulation that, if implemented, would greatly expand the number of immigrants in the U.S. who could be subject to deportation for using public benefits, according to a Reuters report. The new proposal is part of the Trump administration’s larger effort to limit immigration from low-income foreign nationals.
Such benefits include the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as “food stamps”; Supplemental Security Income (SSI) doled out to the elderly and disabled people; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); Section 8 housing vouchers; and various Medicaid benefits.
If the draft regulation is put into effect, it would be a sharp reversal from longstanding policy.
Permanent legal residents — also known as green card holders — who are dependent of the government for assistance and determined to be a “public charge” are already subject to deportation. However, in reality, few are ever actually deported. A 1948 ruling has essentially restricted such decorations to only those immigrants who have been demanded by the government to pay for public services, but have failed to do so.
U.S. laws technically allow for the removal of legal residents who are deemed “public charges” within the first five years of their admission — if their reason for seeking benefits predated their entry into the U.S. For example, if an immigrant did not disclose a health issue that requires government assistance. However, because of the decades-old ruling, deportation for this reason almost never happens.
The proposal suggests that the Trump administration would override this precedent and allow for the removal of immigrants who have taken advantage of public benefits within the first five years of their admission.
The plan is reportedly still in its early stages, and it may not even become official policy. In order for the proposal to move forward, it must be subject to public comment, then it would have to be signed off by Attorney General William Barr.
News of the proposal follows other plans by the White House to limit low-income and low-skilled foreign nationals from entering the country.
Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is developing a reform package that would limit low-skilled migrants in favor of high-skilled ones. In addition, the White House is considering barring immigrants altogether who are deemed likely to use publicly funded benefits.
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