Posted on September 25, 2018

Immigrant Advocates Vow to Fight Trump Plan to Clamp Restrictions on Green Card Applicants

Trevor Hughes and Alan Gomez, USA Today, September 22, 2018

Pro-immigration groups nationwide are girding for a major battle to stop or alter a Trump administration proposal unveiled over the weekend – weeks before November’s midterm elections – that would strictly enforce rules for millions of immigrants applying for green cards or visas by scrutinizing their use of food stamps, welfare, housing vouchers or Medicaid.

Department of Homeland Security officials, who announced the proposal late Saturday, said their plan would save federal taxpayers $2.7 billion annually by deterring immigrants from applying for benefits they would otherwise be qualified for. It would affect about 380,000 people annually, according to federal officials, who said it is designed to ensure that immigrants can support themselves.

“Under long-standing federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said. {snip}

In certain cases, federal officials said, people who are lawful permanent residents and who have received benefits could be subject to the new rule if they leave the country and try to return. Most green card holders would be unaffected.


Stricter immigration policies are viewed as a hot-button issue to bring conservatives to the polls, while Democrats see it as a lightning rod for motivating their base.


Hard-line conservatives have long argued against admitting immigrants who can’t support themselves. Immigrant advocates said it’s an attack on some of the world’s most vulnerable people who seek a chance at a better life in the USA – and who might need a little help getting started.


For decades, immigration officials have considered applicants’ financial status in deciding whether to permit them entry, but the new rules are significantly stricter.

Potentially disqualifying benefits include Medicare Part D prescription drugs, Medicaid with some exceptions for emergency services and disability services related to education, food stamps and Section 8 housing vouchers.


Supporters of the president’s proposal said immigration advocates try to have it both ways by claiming immigrants are a net benefit to the country and simultaneously saying they need access to food stamps and housing assistance.


According to a study on the economic impacts of immigration conducted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine last year, first-generation immigrants cost U.S. taxpayers $57.4 billion a year. But the researchers found that second-generation immigrants provided an economic boost of $30.5 billion and third-generation immigrants created a $223.8 billion gain.

The positive contribution of immigrants was underscored this year in a letter signed by 1,470 economists delivered to Trump and Republican leaders in Congress. The group acknowledged that in the short run, immigrants can prove harmful to some American businesses and American workers with lower levels of education.

“But the benefits that immigration brings to society far outweigh their costs, and smart immigration policy could better maximize the benefits of immigration while reducing the costs,” the economists concluded.