Trump Admin Proposes Most Significant Change to Legal Immigration in Decades
In a move that would not need congressional approval, the Trump administration is working on finalizing the most significant change to the U.S. legal immigration system in decades.
The new proposal would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they used a range of public welfare programs such as Obamacare, children’s health insurance (CHIP) or food stamps.
According to NBC News sources who saw the draft proposal last week, the proposal is part of the White House senior adviser Stephen Miller’s plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.
The recent draft is aimed at hindering immigrants living legally in the U.S. who have ever used or whose household members have ever used Obamacare, CHIP, the children’s health insurance, food stamps and other benefits from obtaining legal status in the U.S.
Immigration lawyers, advocates and public health researchers are concerned that the plan would be the most significant change to the legal immigration system in decades and could affect more than 20 million immigrants.
The advocates are concerned that it would be hard for immigrants with low income to support their families. Louis Charles, a Haitian green-card holder seeking citizenship had to use public programs to support his disabled adult daughter. Many immigrants are like Charles who works up to 80 hours a week as a nursing assistant who had to support his family will be deprived of the opportunity to become citizens.
According to the sources, the White House Office of Management and Budget received a version of the plan as the final step before publishing a rule in the federal register.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said: “The administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is intended to protect the American taxpayer by ensuring that foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the U.S are self-sufficient. Any proposed changes would ensure that the government takes the responsibility of being good stewards of taxpayer funds seriously and adjudicates immigration benefit requests by the law.”
According to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2016, which was the last full fiscal year under the Obama administration indicated that 1.2 million immigrants became lawful permanent residents or green-card holders, and 753,060 became naturalized U.S. citizens.
Data from the first quarter of the fiscal year 2018 indicates that the administration represented by Miller, along with several of his former congressional colleagues who now hold prominent positions in the Trump administration is on track for declining granting immigrants’ green cards by 20 percent.
Data for the first two quarters of the fiscal year 2018 for immigrants obtaining naturalized citizenship shows little change compared to the same period in 2016. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services say they expect naturalization numbers to rise in the later half of the year based on previous trends.
“Data from the first quarter of the fiscal year 2018 indicates that the administration represented by Miller, along with several of his former congressional colleagues who now hold prominent positions in the Trump administration is on track for declining granting immigrants’ green cards by 20 percent.”
Four immigration lawyers practicing in Massachusetts, Virginia, Tennessee, and California told NBC News they had noticed a spike in clients’ rejection rate when seeking green cards and naturalized citizenship.
Michael Bars, a USCIS spokesperson said in a statement that “USCIS evaluates all applications fairly, efficiently and effectively on a case-by-case basis.”
Bars said that “USCIS has not changed the manner in which applications for naturalization have been adjudicated, as the law generally requires that an eligible applicant must have been properly admitted for permanent residence in order to become a U.S. citizen. … We reject the false and inaccurate claims of those who would rather the U.S. turn a blind eye to cases of illegal immigration, fraud, human trafficking, gang activity and drug proliferation at the expense of public safety, the integrity of our laws and their faithful execution.”
The 55 years old Louis Charles, the Haitian green-card holder’s application for citizenship was denied. Charles used a fake passport when he entered the U.S. from Haiti in 1989 but confessed to border officers and received a waiver from USCIS absolving him of his wrongdoing and allowing him to obtain a green card in 2011.
However, when he went for his citizenship interview in August 2017, the USCIS officers told him they were going to revisit the decision to waive the fake passport incident, meaning he could potentially lose his green card as well. He appealed the decision, but as he waits for a final verdict, his lawyer says his green-card status may also now be in question.
Without becoming a U.S. citizen, Charles will not be able to vouch for his wife, a Haitian who came to the U.S. after the deadly 2010 earthquake that is losing her legal status after the Trump administration announced an end to temporary protected status for Haitians in November. Charles’ disable daughter, an American citizen in her 20s, and in need of care and support as well will suffer the consequences of her parent’s situation.
Similar to what the Clinton administration did in 1999, the Trump administration is redefining the term “public charge,” which first emerged in immigration law in the 1800s in order to shield the U.S. from burdening too many immigrants who could not contribute to society.
Rosemary Jenks, executive vice president of Numbers USA, a group that advocates and works towards limited immigration said that “applications for renewal or adjustment of status that have been filed with the government before are being re-examined to look for fraud,” Jenks said.
Rose Hernandez who is the supervising attorney at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition’s naturalization clinic said that “the clinic’s model has completely changed in light of the crackdown.”
Rose now sends six information requests to government agencies to check on green card holders’ backgrounds before she advises them to file for citizenship as any unknown information to her that is found by government agencies might cause her clients to lose their green cards and be sent home.
The National Immigration Law Center said in a statement that “any policy forcing millions of families to choose between the denial of status and food or health care would exacerbate serious problems such as hunger, unmet health needs, child poverty, and homelessness, with lasting consequences for families’ well-being and long-term success and community prosperity.”
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