The Trump administration issued a new rule change on Monday that allows immigration officials to deny green cards to immigrants in the country legally if they use federal benefits, such as food stamps or public housing.
The rule change is intended to target poor immigrants who are applying for permanent status and using federal benefits. The new rule, dubbed “public charge,” will force immigrants seeking a green card to choose between either ending their federal assistance or risk having their application rejected.
Trump officials say the rule change will not affect people who already have green cards or to refugees and asylum-seekers; the rule change will go into effect on Oct. 15, 2019, and will only apply to green card applications filed after that date.
When asked by a reporter how the new rule change isn’t a sign that the Trump administration is targeting Latinos, Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the law’s legal foundation has been on the books for 140 years. Cuccinelli failed to mention that legal basis came about during the anti-immigrant period of the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1880s. Stephen Miller, Trump’s anti-immigrant senior policy advisor, is reportedly behind the new attack on poor immigrants.
Following the news, the National Immigration Law Center, an advocacy group for low-income migrants, announced their intent to file a legal challenge against the White House rule change.
“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 the group’s executive director Marielena Hincapié in a statement. “… It will have a dire humanitarian impact, forcing some families to forego critical life-saving health care and nutrition. The damage will be felt for decades to come.”
An estimated 26 million immigrants in the U.S. may reconsider federal benefits because of the new rule change, according to the New York Times. Texas is home to an estimated 1.4 million green card holders, according to 2015 federal immigration data.
Despite the pretext given for the new rule change– that immigrants are draining federal resources– the reality is immigrants contribute significantly to Texas’ economy. Study after study has shown immigrants, even if undocumented, add much more to the state’s economy than take from public dollars.
In a statement, Anne Dunkelberg, associate director for the Austin-based think tank Center for Public Policy Priorities, said the “xenophobic regulation will close the doors to hard-working new Americans who are critical to our Texas economy and our American tradition of family immigration and social mobility.”