New US rules may impact 1.1M potential new immigrants

by Kumar Balani

NEW YORK — In the past few days, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced the issuance of a sweeping new set of rules, regulations, and guidance to US consulates worldwide that could adversely impact some 1.1 million potential new immigrants, based on its own figures, including about 517,000 temporary visa applicants, 380,000 who have applied for permanent residence, and 200,000 married couples in the United States.

“Over the weekend, the Trump administration announced the DHS ‘public charge’ rule proposal, a policy designed to reduce the number of people who are eligible for green cards, H-1Bs, and other visas by redefining what makes them dependent on government benefits,” said Doug Rand to this reporter. Rand is a former White House official who worked on immigration regulations in the Obama administration.

The new proposals are, however, less drastic than what he termed ‘previously-leaked versions’ of DHS rules. These would have more severely penalized those immigrants who help themselves financially by using Federal benefits meant only for lower-income people.

Rand asserts: “But make no mistake, the public charge rule is a sweeping plan to reshape the legal immigration system in the United States, without any action by Congress.”

Among the extraordinary revelations from the new set of rules include the following actions the DHS will take through the various immigration-related Federal agencies and offices in the US and overseas:

  • DHS plans to deny green cards and temporary visas to applicants who have used food stamps, federal housing assistance, Medicare Part D subsidies, and non-emergency Medicaid benefits.
  • DHS plans to create an entirely new set of complex criteria to assess whether an applicant is “likely” to use such benefits at any point in the future, including medical conditions, English proficiency, credit history, financial liabilities, and private insurance coverage. DHS estimates that the total paperwork burden could cost well over $1 billion over 10 years.
  • DHS will likely penalize solidly middle-class families by demanding that applicants show annual household income above 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. That’s $41,150, for a couple with no children, on up to $73,550 for a family of five or more.
  • By DHS’ own estimate, this new public charge test will be applied to over 380,000 green card applicants per year, plus over 517,000 temporary visa applicants per year.
  • But this is an underestimate because DHS also expects the State Department to apply the same public charge standards to millions of visa applicants abroad.
  • Meanwhile, for the first time, the Trump administration has stated that the Department of Justice will ultimately issue its own rule that could expand the deportability of current green card holders for participating in government programs.

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