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Kirstjen Nielsen approves welfare limits on immigrants

September 23, 2018

The Homeland Security Department has announced new rules designed to enforce a long-standing, but also long-ignored, requirement that immigrants not become a burden on American taxpayers.

Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who signed the proposal Friday, said it would push immigrants eithrt to be self-sufficient or to rely on their family or the business that’s sponsoring them to be in the U.S. for help, rather than to take assistance from the government.

Those who do end up taking taxpayer-funded benefits could be denied the ability to gain citizenship and the rules also apply prospectively, meaning the government would be able to refuse adjustments of status for immigrants whom officials deem likely to become a “public charge.”

Homeland Security says the government stands to save nearly $20 billion over the next decade in benefits it will no longer have to pay out.

The rules are a proposal, and the public will have 60 days from the official publication date to submit comments.

“Under long-standing federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially,” said Ms. Nielsen. “This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”

Immigrant-rights advocates had been awaiting the move with trepidation, and were quick to blast the new proposal.

“Trump wants you to think Latinos and immigrants are rapists and murderers, they vote illegally against him, they are lazy and at the same time are stealing American jobs. Today he’s selling the lie that immigrants weaken the U.S. economy when exactly the opposite is true,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat.

He said the proposal goes beyond GOP opposition to illegal immigration and puts Republicans on record as favoring restrictions on legal immigrants, too.

U.S. law has long envisioned immigrants being self-supportive, dating back to provisions in the late 1800s. But in recent years they’ve rarely been enforced and the Clinton administration wrote rules limiting the types of programs that are considered when deciding whether an immigrant is a public charge.

The Washington Times reported in 2016 that from five major national sources of immigration to the U.S., just three people were cited for being public charges in the years from 2013 to 2015. And just one of those cases was actually sustained by immigration judges.

Under the Clinton rules, the government only looked at cash assistance welfare payments, Social Security and Medicaid benefits. The new proposal would add food stamps, public housing and long-term institutionalized care to the list.

Disaster relief, assistance to immigrants serving in the armed forces or their families, and emergency medical care would not count against a immigrant under the Trump administration’s proposal.

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