The Trump administration is reportedly eyeing drastic policy changes to “public charge” program rules that would bar immigrants from obtaining green cards, according to published reports.
According to NBC News, four sources with knowledge of the plan say that it may bar immigrants who have “ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare” from adjusting their legal status. While many immigrants are not eligible for broad welfare programs, many permanent residents and Temporary Protection Status (TPS) holders are able to apply for SNAP, aka food stamps, and WIC — a program for pregnant women, infants, and children — that reportedly are included in the new proposal.
According to NBC’s report, even the enrollment of a child in the Child Health Plus (CHiP) program might disqualify the child’s parents from permanent residency, aka obtaining a “green card.” The proposed regulation would also bar legally employed immigrants who receive tax refunds using the Earned Income Credit, even though they qualify for that credit.
Trump adviser Stephen Miller has been the leading proponent of these changes. He is a protégé of Jeff Sessions, and he has been a leading link between the Trump administration and white nationalist immigration restrictionists. While much of the media focuses on attacks on undocumented immigrants at border, Miller has set reducing legal immigration as a major administration target. Even without the new rules, Trump has reduced the number of green cards issued. For example, in the first quarter of this year, green card issuances were down by 20 percent.
While traditional conservatives have defended Trump as targeting only undocumented immigrants, in fact, Miller’s main targets are legal immigrants. Miller has always been much more concerned with preventing legal permanent residents — rather than undocumented immigrants — from becoming voters. The one million new citizens taking the naturalization oath each year have long been seen by Miller as the principal threat to continued white control of the country’s government and institutions.
The NBC article contains some inaccuracies. The proposed rule changes refer to immigration consequences for those who receive benefits in the future, not past receipt of benefits. Also, being designated as a “public charge” does not apply to people who already have their legal permanent residency nor to many others, including people who have asylum, U-visa applicants, victims of human trafficking and many others. Again, no changes have been made yet, so please do not disenroll or advise people to disenroll from from medical assistance or other essential benefits or services.