President Donald Trump on Monday issued a new rule that would deny green cards to legal immigrants whose lack of financial resources mean they could need government benefit programs.
The new regulation is aimed at hundreds of thousands of immigrants who enter the country legally every year and then apply to become permanent residents. Starting in October, the government’s decision will be based on an aggressive wealth test to determine whether those immigrants have the means to support themselves.
Those who lack financial means would be denied permanent legal status if they are deemed likely to use programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing. Wealthier immigrants who are not judged likely to require those programs will be able to get a green card.
Jarin Ahmed, a member of the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, which supports undocumented residents in Hudson, opposed the new plan — which, again, applies to legal immigrants.
“I think it is total BS,” Ahmed said. “There is no reason to be targeting people — that is racial profiling. That is against the Constitution of the United States.”
Officials said the program would not apply to people who already have green cards, to certain members of the military, to refugees and asylum-seekers, or to pregnant women and children. But immigration advocates said immigrants not subject to the regulation could drop out of those programs for fear of retaliation.
“This news is a cruel new step toward weaponizing programs that are intended to help people by making them, instead, a means of separating families and sending immigrants and communities of color one message: You are not welcome here,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.
The new regulation was announced Monday by Kenneth Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“The benefit to taxpayers is a long-term benefit of seeking to ensure that our immigration system is bringing people to join us as American citizens, as legal permanent residents first, who can stand on their own two feet, who will not be reliant on the welfare system, especially in the age of the modern welfare state, which is so expansive and expensive,” Cuccinelli said.
But U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, said the regulation will not solve the immigration crisis and could endanger people.
“The new Public Charge rule from the Trump administration is not aimed at solving the complex issues at our border, but instead makes our communities less healthy, and stokes a dangerous culture of fear in immigrant communities,” Delgado said.
The complex regulation, which is scheduled to go into effect in 60 days, would give the Trump administration a powerful new tool to narrow the demographic of people who come to live and work in the country. According to the new rule, the United States wants immigrants who can support themselves, not those who “depend on public resources to meet their needs.” Tiffany Garriga, 2nd Ward Alderwoman in Hudson, opposed the president’s plan.
“I hope he is looking in the mirror,” Garriga said of Trump.
Others supported the move.
“If people want to come here to work hard, I’m all for that,” said Michael Jones, of Catskill. The ability of immigrants to support themselves has long been a consideration in whether they were granted the right to permanently live and work in the United States. But the Trump administration’s new move has made assessing the financial resources of immigrants a more central part of that decision-making process. It is unclear precisely how many legal immigrants will be affected by the new rule.
The New York Times News Service contributed to this report.