Trump Administration Proposes Rule to Deny Citizenship to Poor Immigrants
“It’s a bit like the creation of a castelike system.”
The US Department of Homeland Security has proposed a new rule to curb legal immigration into the United States, according to CNN.
The new rule would allow the government to deny entry to prospective immigrants who may use public welfare benefits while in the US. It would also make it harder for current legal-resident immigrants to pursue full citizenship if they have ever used welfare benefits. If the rule is enacted, it could affect millions of law-abiding people, according to the New York Times.
The proposal is based on a legal notion called the “public charge” that has been applied for decades to assess if a prospective immigrant will be too much of a financial burden on the country. But the Trump administration has significantly expanded the interpretation of the concept, arguing that it will save taxpayer money.
The rule is ultimately part of a much larger push to restrict legal and illegal immigration to the US, according to the Times.
“Under long-standing federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially," Kirstjen Nielsen, head of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement in a DHS news release.
If approved, the law would require immigrant caseworkers to heavily screen potential entrants for their potential use of public benefits and deny those deemed burdensome.
Critics of the proposal say that it’s prejudiced in nature and makes a mockery of the bedrock American principle of a person coming to the US with few resources and then going on to achieve the “American Dream.”
Critics also allege that it will deter immigrants who have a right to food stamps, public housing benefits, and health care from taking advantage of these benefits and will therefore subject people to unnecessary suffering.
“This is an attack on immigrant families and an attempt to make our immigration system a pay-to-play system where only the wealthy need apply,” Jackie Vimo, a policy analyst with the National Immigration Law Center, told the Times. “This is a radical transformation of our immigration, and does a runaround on Congress.”
Other immigrant organizations echoed these concerns.
"Today's announcement by the Trump administration is a backdoor, administrative end-run to substantially reduce legal immigration that, if implemented, will hurt our entire country," Todd Schulte, President of FWD.us, said in a statement. "This policy will cost the United States in the long run by limiting the contributions of hardworking immigrants who could become legal residents, and no one is better off because of it.”
Since taking office, the Trump administration has consistently sought to restrict immigration into the US. Various travel bans attempted to block immigrants from Muslim-majority countries from coming to the US, numerous groups of asylum seekers have had their protected status revoked, and refugee caps have been repeatedly reduced to historic lows.
The administration’s most controversial move to deter immigration involved separating migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border. There are still hundreds of families who have not been reunited.
The Trump administration recently diverted $260 million to migrant detention facilities from cancer and AIDS research, and support programs for refugees.
The new proposal would essentially create a tiered immigration system that favors people with high incomes and education levels, according to the Times.
“It’s a bit like the creation of a castelike system,” Shawn Fremstad, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told the Times. “Unless you’ve had an ‘American Dream’ going for you in your home country, you’re going to have a hard time earning it here. It’s really screening those people.”