The number of new immigrants granted “greens cards” was already down by 20% before last week’s announcement that a new rule was being proposed that might prevent people who receive certain government benefits from being granted permanent residence. That proposed change is not in effect now, and is unlikely to go into effect before January, but we are already seeing some immigrants cancel their benefits out of fear that to receive them might render them undocumented.
It is important for anyone who is applying for permanent residence to follow the development of this proposed “public charge” rule change. However, the fears associated with the news from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is having an even greater impact than the actual rule-change ever could.
The Trump administration is notorious for trying to sow confusion and fear with its immigration policies. Unlike prior administrations that tried to tamp down misunderstandings about changes in how laws are interpreted, the Trump team exploits fear to keep immigrants from becoming permanent residents and citizens. Any other administration would have issued a press release by now assuring immigrants that no one needs to stop receiving benefits immediately, that this rule will not go into effect until 2019, if at all. Earlier administrations would also have clarified that the proposal does not cover immigrants applying for citizenship. That was not done either.
The Department of Homeland Security, which released the new rule on a Saturday when the public’s attention was focused on the Supreme Court hearings, also did not highlight the many groups of applicants for permanent residence who are exempt from the proposal. These include refugees, asylees, and many victims of domestic violence.
The obvious purpose of an administration whose immigration policies are crafted by Jeff Sessions and Steve Miller is to deprive thousands of immigrants of nutrition and medical support that their taxes pay for by frightening them off. They hope that the chilling effect will be even more destructive than the actual proposal.