Trump's New Public Charge Rule Seen As 'Direct Assault' On Immigrant Communities

White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, widely believed to be the architect of the "public charge" regulation
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White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, widely believed to be the architect of the "public charge" regulation AP/Shutterstock

On Monday, less than a week after ICE agents conducted the largest workplace raid in the agency's history, the Trump administration unveiled a far-reaching policy that will make it more difficult for immigrants who rely on food stamps and other government assistance programs to obtain legal status.

The regulation expands the existing federal law governing "public charges," which requires immigrants applying for permanent status to prove they will not need help from taxpayer-funded programs. Under the new overhaul, applicants who used a broad range of benefits—including Medicaid, food stamps, or housing assistance—may be turned away. Those deemed "more likely than not" to rely on public benefits for over a year will also now be considered a public charge.

In a press conference on Monday, acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli said that the policy is aimed at "reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America."

In reality, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for most federal benefits; studies have shown that immigrants contribute far more in tax revenues than they receive in public benefits

Still, changing the regulation has reportedly been an obsession of the president's senior advisor Stephen Miller, widely seen as the most hardline anti-immigrant voice in the Trump White House.

According to the Department of Homeland Security's estimates, the rule change will impact reviews for about 382,000 people annually. But immigrant advocates argue that the number is far greater, due to a chilling effect that will discourage many migrants from seeking public assistance.

In a statement, Marielena Hincapieé, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, predicted "a dire humanitarian impact, forcing some families to forego critical life-saving health care and nutrition. The damage will be felt for decades to come."

The shift may already be having an impact. Last week, the Tampa Bay Times reported that a U.S. citizen has stopped using food stamps to feed his four children, while their mother—a Florida resident for 16 years—is awaiting a Green Card interview in Mexico.

In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned the change as a "direct assault on our immigrant brothers and sisters," and vowed to take the president to court. The National Immigration Law Center has also pledged to file a lawsuit blocking the change.

New York City Immigrant Affair’s Commissioner Bitta Mostofi added that city "will do everything in our power to ensure people have the resources they need to at this critical time."

Immigrants with questions about the change are urged to call ActionNYC at 311 or 1-800-354-0365 and say ‘public charge’ to access city-funded, trusted legal advice, according to Mostofi.

The new rules are expected to take effect in mid-October.

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