The United States administration announced new rules on Monday that aim to deny Green Cards and citizenship to immigrants who receive food stamps, public health care and other welfare.
Announcing a new definition of the longstanding "public charge" law, the White House said the 22 million non-citizen residents of the United States who are using public services will not be able to obtain permanent residency or US citizenship. This is the latest in the Donald Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration.
The new rules threaten to set back citizenship hopes of millions of migrants, a large number of whom are Hispanic, work for low wages and therefore depend on public benefits.
Additionally, migrants will not be granted resident visas if they are deemed too poor and likely to need public assistance.
"To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient," Trump said in a White House statement.
Pro-migrant activists have announced that they will file lawsuits to block the new rules, and Democrats in Congress have said they would fight what some called a "racially motivated policy."
"This administration scapegoats immigrants, emboldens white supremacists, and tears families apart. This is racist policy. We will continue fighting to #ProtectFamilies," tweeted Representative Donna Shalala.
The White House justified the new rules, saying that "large numbers" of migrants "have taken advantage of our generous public benefits, limited resources that could otherwise go to vulnerable Americans."
The new rules will apply to non-citizen residents who use public services repeatedly after October 15, 2019. The services that count against an applicant include federal, state and local cash and income assistance, food stamps from the federal SNAP program, Medicaid, and subsidized housing.
The new rules do not apply to public assistance programs for children or pregnant women, or emergency room care.