The Trump administration has announced new rules that will make it harder for legal immigrants to enter and stay in the US if they claim government benefits such as food stamps, housing subsidies and Medicaid.
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US citizenship and immigration services, said in a White House briefing yesterday that under a new “public charge rule”, immigration officers making visa decisions would consider it a “negative factor” if immigrants received certain types of federal, state and local benefits.
Mr Cuccinelli also said the changes, which are set to go into effect in October, would prevent immigrants who were “likely” to claim benefits from coming to or remaining in the US.
“Throughout our history, self-reliance has been a core principle in America. The virtues of perseverance, hard work, self sufficiency laid the foundation of our nation and have defined generations of immigrants seeking opportunity in the US,” he added. “President Trump’s administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility.”
The White House said the changes, which were championed by White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, would “help ensure that non-citizens in this country are self-sufficient and not a strain on public resources”.
The Trump administration has taken wide-reaching measures to crack down on legal and illegal immigration to the US.
Last week, US immigration authorities detained 680 undocumented migrants in co-ordinated raids at six food processing plants in Mississippi. On Sunday, Kevin McAleenan, the acting director of US homeland security, said the timing of the raids was “unfortunate” following a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, earlier this month that left 22 people dead. The alleged shooter in El Paso posted an anti-immigrant manifesto on social media that referred to the “Hispanic invasion of Texas”.
Yesterday’s announcement sparked outrage from pro-immigrant groups, who said the changes were unfairly targeting non-white migrants.
Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, said the changes were “more evidence that this administration is determined to damage the lives of millions of immigrants, their families, their children and their community”.
Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, which is filing a lawsuit challenging the new rule, said the changes were a “cruel new step toward weaponising programmes that are intended to help people”.
“Of all the immigration policy changes from this administration, this is the one that would have the deepest, widest and most long term impact on our country and our democracy,” she added.