Legal immigrants who use public benefits like Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance could have a more difficult time obtaining a green card or U.S. citizenship under a policy change that is at the center of the Trump administration’s effort to reduce immigration, the Washington Post reports. The policy for “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” which appeared Monday in the Federal Register and will take effect in two months, sets new standards for obtaining permanent residency and U.S. citizenship. The Trump administration has been seeking to limit those immigrants who might draw on taxpayer-funded benefits, such as many of those who have been fleeing Central America, while allowing more highly skilled and wealthy immigrants into the U.S.
Wealth, education, age and English-language skills will take on greater importance in obtaining a green card, as the change will redefine what it means to be a “public charge,” as well as who is likely to be one under U.S. immigration law. Analysts say the policy could dramatically reduce family-based legal immigration to the U.S., particularly from Mexico, Central America and Africa, where economies have suffered and incomes are lower. The rule circumvents earlier, failed efforts by the administration to build support in Congress for a “merit-based” overhaul to the immigrant visa system, and fulfills a goal of senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and other immigration hawks who have long sought new bureaucratic tools to reduce immigration levels. The new rule — from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security — focuses on the definition of what it means to be a “public charge,” or someone dependent of U.S. government benefits, and who is “likely” to become one.