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Immigrants and activists protest near the White House to demand that the Department of Homeland Security extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for more than 195,000 Salvadorans on January 8, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

'Cruel' New Proposal Shows Trump Wants to Punish Immigrants Who Receive Public Benefits

Rights groups and anti-poverty advocates argued the rule changes could threaten the healthcare of hundreds of thousands of immigrants.

Jake Johnson

In a potential policy change that immigrant rights advocates and anti-poverty groups warned could threaten the healthcare of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, a leaked draft proposal obtained by the Washington Post on Wednesday revealed that the Trump administration is considering making it harder for immigrants who have received "almost any form of welfare or public benefit" to become permanent legal residents.

"This is really scary stuff from an administration solely focused on criminalizing as many immigrants and Americans around immigrants as possible."
—Alida Garcia
According to the Post, immigrants who have benefited or are deemed likely to benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit, certain healthcare subsidies, and other "non-cash public benefits" would be negatively affected by the proposal, which was crafted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

"Immigrants and their families facing a short-term crisis could potentially have to forgo help to avoid jeopardizing their U.S. residency status," the Post notes. "The changes would apply to those seeking immigration visas [and] could affect immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program."

Additionally, the Post reports that under the DHS rules—which officials say have yet to be finalized but are expected to be published in the Federal Register this year—"children would be considered a negative factor for caseworkers evaluating whether an immigrant is likely to use some form of public assistance or benefit."

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, argued in a tweet on Wednesday that, if implemented, these rules "could make it nearly impossible for an immigrant working in low-wage industries to become citizens."

Other immigrant rights advocates and anti-poverty groups also reacted with alarm to the leaked proposals, calling them a "cruel" intensification of Trump's already expansive war on immigrant communities.

In an interview with the Post, Mark Greenberg, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, argued the latest leaked draft represents an escalation from previously reported proposals by the Trump White House to penalize immigrants who receive public benefits—proposals that were sharply denounced at the time as an effort to deter immigrants from applying for public benefits like child nutrition programs.

"It's striking that after strong public criticism of a leaked draft rule, the administration seems to be considering a version that goes even further, and they're actively considering whether to use this rule to create new grounds for deporting legal immigrants," Greenberg said.

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