WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump administration on Wednesday announced plans to target illegal immigrants who are receiving public benefits.
According to a report published by The Washington Post, a new proposal would penalize illegal immigrants who accept public benefits and could be used to deny them legal residency.
If approved, the proposal may impact DACA recipients who were granted temporary residency under the Obama administration, preventing them from obtaining full legal staus.
“The administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer by ensuring that foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the U.S. are self-sufficient,” DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman told the Post in a statement. “DHS will consider whether the alien being a dependent or having dependents … makes it more or less likely that the alien will become a public charge.”
The president’s plan, which has been in the works for months, is in stark contrast to current guidelines, which have been in place since 1999 and specifically bar authorities from considering the receipt of benefits in deciding a person’s eligibility to immigrate to the United States or stay in the country.
“Non-citizens who receive public benefits are not self-sufficient and are relying on the U.S. government and state and local entities for resources instead of their families, sponsors or private organizations,” the Trump administration argued last month. “An alien’s receipt of public benefits comes at taxpayer expense and availability of public benefits may provide an incentive for aliens to immigrate to the United States.”
“The administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer,” Tyler Houlton, a DHS spokesman said in February. “Any potential changes to the rule would be in keeping with the letter and spirit of the law – as well as the reasonable expectations of the American people for the government to be good stewards of taxpayer funds.”
Critics of the plan claim the proposal is cruel and forces illegal immigrants to choose between obtaining benefits and becoming legal citizens.
“It’s striking that the administration seems to be considering a version that goes even further, and they’re actively considering whether to use this rule to create new grounds for deporting legal immigrants,” Mark Greenberg, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, told the Post.
In addition to cash benefits, the proposal includes other taxpayer-funded benefits including the Earned Income Tax Credit, health insurance subsidies and food stamps.
The proposal is awaiting final approval from DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. If enacted, it would take full approval by the end of the year.