Trump Administration Starts Enforcing ‘Public Charge’ Immigration Rule

February 24, 2020 Updated: February 24, 2020
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The Trump administration on Monday started enforcing new income-based requirements for green cards and certain types of visas, coming days after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the measure.

Under the new rules, most green card applicants in the United States and abroad will now have to be evaluated under a new set of guidelines to determine whether they’ll be a “public charge.” The rule is expected to affect millions and might force numerous immigrants to stop using public welfare programs, including Supplemental Security Income, assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, Medicare, and other programs.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it will also look into an immigrant’s age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, skills, and other factors.

“President Trump continues to deliver on his promise to the American people to enforce our nation’s immigration laws. After several judicial victories, DHS will finally begin implementing the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule,” said Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security. “This rule enforces longstanding law requiring aliens to be self-sufficient, reaffirming the American ideals of hard work, perseverance and determination. It also offers clarity and expectations to aliens considering a life in the United States and will help protect our public benefit programs.”

The agency said that an immigrant who received one or more public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period will be deemed a “public charge.”

Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli addresses the Virginia GOP Convention in Roanoke, Va., on June 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli addresses the Virginia GOP Convention in Roanoke, Va., on June 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Cuccinelli said he wouldn’t guess how many people might be denied under the new rule but stressed that its the immigrants’ behavior that may change.

“The goal is to make sure that people who are granted long-term status, legal permanent residence status, can stand on their own two feet. And get back to that American tradition that has been in law for over 140 years,” Cuccinelli told the Washington Times.

The move drew a rebuke from some advocacy groups, who said they would create awareness campaigns about the new requirements.

“The implementation of the public charge rule today is a devastating blow for all Americans. The rule is heartless, cruel, and betrays our core values as a nation of immigrants,” Kristin Brown, president of the Empire Justice Center, said in a statement to CBS News. “This public charge screening tool will guide community-based organizations in helping families make crucial decisions that may carry life-changing consequences.”

The new rules don’t apply to refugees, asylum-seekers, and immigrants in the United States on special victim visas.

Last Friday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on the new plan in a development that was praised by the White House.

“This final rule will protect hardworking American taxpayers, safeguard welfare programs for truly needy Americans, reduce the Federal deficit, and re-establish the fundamental legal principle that newcomers to our society should be financially self-reliant and not dependent on the largess(e) of United States taxpayers,” the statement released by the Office of the Press Secretary said on Saturday.