Marguerite Telford, Center for Immigration Studies, August 12, 2019
USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli today announced the Trump administration’s new “public charge” rules making it harder for prospective immigrants to qualify for lawful permanent residence (green cards) if they use or are likely to use U.S. welfare programs.
Mark Krikorian, the Center’s Executive Director, said, “There are hundreds of millions of people who want to move to the United States, and this rule ensures that we allow in only those who will be able to pay their own bills. The heavy use of welfare by immigrant households is not the result of laziness or some other moral shortcoming; immigrants are as likely to work as native-born Americans. Instead, it is the inevitable result of admitting people with little education, meaning that they will have low earnings in a modern, knowledge-based economy.”
According to Census Bureau data, in 2014, 63 percent of households headed by a non-citizen reported that they used at least one welfare program, compared to 35 percent of native-headed households. Compared to native households, non-citizen households have much higher use of food programs (45 percent vs. 21 percent for natives) and Medicaid (50 percent vs. 23 percent for natives).
Guidelines in use since 1999 referred to a public charge as someone primarily depending on cash assistance only, and did not take into account non-cash welfare. But under new rules the Department of Homeland Security has redefined public charge to mean someone who is “more likely than not” to receive any taxpayer-funded public benefits, including Medicaid, housing assistance, or food assistance.
The rule will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register on Tuesday.