U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration unveiled a sweeping rule on Monday that would limit legal immigration by denying visas and permanent residency to hundreds of thousands of people who are not seen as likely to contribute to the US economy.
The long-anticipated rule, pushed by Trump’s leading aide on immigration Stephen Miller, takes effect Oct. 15 and would reject applicants for temporary or permanent visas for failing to meet income standards or for receiving public assistance such as welfare, food stamps, public housing or Medicaid.
Immediately after the rule was announced, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) said it would file a lawsuit to stop it from taking effect. The group’s executive director said the rule was racially motivated.
The overhaul is part of Trump’s efforts to curb both legal and illegal immigration, an issue he has made a cornerstone of his presidency.
The 837-page rule could be the most drastic of all the Trump administration’s policies targeting the legal immigration system, experts have said. Advocates for immigrants have criticized the plan as an effort to cut legal immigration without going through Congress to change U.S. law.
The new rule is derived from the Immigration Act of 1882, which allows the U.S. government to deny a visa to anyone likely to become a “public charge.”
Most immigrants are ineligible for the major aid programs until they qualify for green cards, which grant legal permanent residence status. However, the new rule announced in the Federal Register by the Department of Homeland Security expands the definition of a public charge and stands to disqualify more people.
The new rule defines public charge as an immigrant who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, within any 36-month period, according to a fact sheet from USCIS. The benefits would count in the aggregate, such that a receipt of two benefits in one month would count as two months, for example, the fact sheet said. The definition of public benefits is cash aide including Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and a variety of public housing programs, the fact sheet said.
The regulation also excludes benefits for individuals in the U.S. armed forces, as well as their spouses and children. Cuccinelli said it would have no impact on humanitarian-based immigration programs for refugees and people seeking asylum.