Immigrants who rely on public assistance will be asked to prove themselves


Since 1882, it’s been federal law that immigrants need to show they can support themselves financially in order to come to the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security now wants to enforce it.

Federation for American Immigration Reform's Ira Mehlman explained the legal immigration system follows family-based migration policies, which allows people into the US based on who they're related to, not on any objective assessment on their likelihood to succeed in the US,

“If we allow you to come to the United States to pursue life, liberty and happiness, we should be able to expect that you are going to be self-sufficient,” said Mehlman. “When we admit people to the United States, we ought to have some idea if they’re likely to be net contributors or whether they’re going to rely on a variety of public benefits and services.”

He said we need to move away from a family-based system...on who immigrants are related a merit-based system on what immigrants are likely to contribute when living in the United States.

Mehlman said there's not a precise dollar figure, but immigrants in the US relying on public assistance is a significant and very expensive drain on taxpayers.

“When you have a situation where roughly half of all immigrant-head of households in the United States rely on at least one form of public assistance, then it can be very, very expensive,” said Mehlman.

He said public assistance comes in many forms, not just Medicaid, or a check with their name on it.

DHS estimates about 382,000 immigrants per year would be subject to a more extensive review of their use of public benefits and potentially denied residency. Legal permanent residents (green card holders) who apply to naturalize as U.S. citizens would not be subject to the proposed changes. It could affect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival cases if they file for permanent residency. It would have little to no effect on immigrants crossing over illegally.

Leading demographers find that the foreign-born percentage of the U.S. population is at its highest level in more than a century.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services found out of the 41.5 million immigrants living in the United States, 3.7 percent received cash benefits in 2013, and 22.7 percent accepted noncash benefits through public assistance programs. In 2015, 3.4 percent of 270 million nonimmigrant Americans received cash welfare payments and 22.1 percent received noncash subsidies.

Soon, the proposal will publish in the Federal Register, followed by a 60-day public comment period. Then DHS will release a final public charge rule that will include an effective date.

Court challenges are expected.

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