In an attempt to make immigration rules tougher, US President Donald Trump's administration on August 12 released a regulation which could make it harder for legal migrants who rely on public benefits, such as food aid or public housing to extend their visas or gain permanent resident status (a green card).
The move comes five days after the Trump administration detained some 680 undocumented immigrants in Mississippi. However, the officials said that the program would not apply to people who already have green cards, nor to the refugees and asylum-seekers, or pregnant women and children.
The new rule will encourage “self-reliance and self-sufficiency for those seeking to come to or stay in the United States,” CNN quoted acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli as saying.
“We certainly expect people of any income to be able to stand on their own two feet, so if people are not able to be self-sufficient, then this negative factor is going to bear very heavily against them in a decision about whether they'll be able to become a legal permanent resident or not,” Cuccinelli added.
As per the Department of Homeland Security, the rule is expected to impact roughly 382,000 people seeking to adjust their immigration.
What do critics have to say?
The opponents say that the rule would discriminate against those from poor countries and would prompt legal residents to give up on social benefits such as Medicaid (government-run healthcare) or housing vouchers, which could affect their US citizen children.
They also say that the move would impact even hard-working migrants who just require a small bit of assistance from the government.
According to an Urban Institue study, about one in seven adults in immigrant families reported that either the person or a family member did not participate in a non-cash safety net program last year because of fear of risking his or her green card status in the future.
Why Trump is doing this
Trump has always talked about restricting the entry of illegal immigrants into the US. However, this move is aimed at curbing legal immigration. The US president has made immigration a central theme of his administration.
"To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient," a White House statement read after the rule change was announced.
Apart from this, Trump, last month, said that authorities concerned were planning to launch a crackdown on illegal immigrants in order to discourage a surge of Central American migrants, was on track after a delay.