Taking Benefits May Penalize Immigrants

Nick Miroff, Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne), March 29, 2018

Immigrants who accept almost any form of welfare or public benefit, even popular tax deductions, could be denied legal U.S. residency under a proposal awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

According to a draft of the proposal obtained by the Washington Post, immigration caseworkers would be required to consider a much broader range of factors when determining whether immigrants or their U.S.-citizen children are using public benefits or may likely do so.

Current rules penalize immigrants who receive cash welfare payments, considering them a “public charge.” But the proposed changes from the Department of Homeland Security would widen the government’s definition of benefits to include the widely used Earned Income Tax Credit as well as health insurance subsidies and other “non-cash public benefits.”

The changes would apply to those seeking immigration visas, or legal permanent residency, such as a foreigner with an expiring work visa. While it would make little difference to those living illegally in the shadows, it could affect immigrants protected by the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program – whose termination has been blocked by federal courts – if they attempt to file for full legal residency.

Immigrants and their families facing a short-term crisis could potentially have to forgo help to avoid jeopardizing their U.S. residency status. The proposal would also require more immigrants to post cash bonds if they have a higher probability of needing or accepting public benefits. The minimum bond amount would be $10,000, according to the DHS proposal, but the amount could be set higher if an applicant is deemed at greater risk of neediness.

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One notable aspect of the proposal indicates native-born Americans use public benefits at roughly the same rate the foreign-born.

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