The Department of Homeland Security released a new regulation on Monday that would severely limit the number of impoverished migrants eligible to enter and remain in the U.S. legally by requiring that visa applicants not be reliant on public services.
Under the expanded public-charge rule, which was added to the Federal Register on Monday, the authorities will consider an immigrant’s use of non-cash government-assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid, as a negative factor in determining their eligibility for a green card or temporary visa.
Since 1996, the public-charge rule has only applied to cash-assistance programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Security Income program.
The rule change will affect those migrants seeking to enter the U.S. and those who entered the country illegally but wish to obtain legal status. DHS officials will take into account would-be immigrants’ education, skills, employment history, health, and a number of other factors to determine whether they are likely to become dependent on the government.
Immigrant-rights advocates argue that the rule change will force needy families to choose between much-needed public services and their desire to secure lawful permanent residency.
The looming threat of the rule change, which was first proposed in October 2018, led one in seven adults in immigrant families to forego public services, according to a study by the Urban Institute.
White House adviser Steven Miller led the rule-change effort and was aided by the elevation of Ken Cuccinelli to director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services earlier this year, according to the New York Times.