Exclusive: Trump Administration May Target Immigrants Who Use Food Aid, Other Benefits

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is considering making it harder for foreigners living in the United States to get permanent residency if they or their American-born children use public benefits such as food assistance, in a move that could sharply restrict legal immigration.

The Department of Homeland Security has drafted rules seen by Reuters that would allow immigration officers to scrutinize a potential immigrant’s use of certain taxpayer-funded public benefits to determine if they could become a public burden.

For example, U.S. officials could look at whether the applicant has enrolled a child in government pre-school programs or received subsidies for utility bills or health insurance premiums.

The draft rules are a sharp departure from current guidelines, which have been in place since 1999 and specifically bar authorities from considering such non-cash benefits in deciding a person’s eligibility to immigrate to the United States or stay in the country.

“Non-citizens who receive public benefits are not self-sufficient and are relying on the U.S. government and state and local entities for resources instead of their families, sponsors or private organizations,” the document states. “An alien’s receipt of public benefits comes at taxpayer expense and availability of public benefits may provide an incentive for aliens to immigrate to the United States.”

Receiving such benefits could weigh against an applicant, even if they were for an immigrant’s U.S. citizen children, according to the document.

“The administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer,” said Tyler Houlton, a DHS spokesman. “Any potential changes to the rule would be in keeping with the letter and spirit of the law – as well as the reasonable expectations of the American people for the government to be good stewards of taxpayer funds.”

By Yeganeh Torbati for REUTERS
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