The Administration Rushed on a Sweeping Immigration Policy. We Found Substantive, Sloppy Mistakes.

This month, the Trump White House unveiled a new policy it had aggressively pushed through the regulatory process that makes it much harder for low-income immigrants, especially those who had used public benefits, to come to or remain in the United States.

The proposal — known as the “public charge” rule, since it creates a complicated test to determine whether an immigrant is “likely to be a public charge” — has the potential to dramatically restrict who’s allowed to settle in the country. And many people who work with immigrants, including social service providers and local and state governments, are worried that it will scare them away from using benefits they and their families need to thrive.

To soften the blow, the rule contains a few exceptions — groups of immigrants who are allowed to use public benefits without jeopardizing their future immigration status. But the rule is so sloppily written that it ended up treating immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens more harshly than immigrants married to noncitizens.

Active-duty service members who are immigrant noncitizens are allowed to use benefits without having it weigh against them as a “public charge” in the future. So are the family members of active-duty immigrant service members. But immigrants who are the spouses or children of active-duty service members who are U.S. citizens are not included in the exception, meaning their use of benefits while their spouses were on active duty could jeopardize their future in the U.S.

“It’s sloppy drafting. They’re trying to get the regulation out sooner than is probably practical,” said Charles Wheeler, an immigration attorney at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that developed and is implementing the rule, declined to comment because of pending litigation against the regulation. (Three lawsuits have been filed challenging the policy: one by a coalition of 13 states and filed in Washington state, one by San Francisco and Santa Clara County in California, and one by a coalition of nonprofit groups in California.) A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

By Dara Lind and Yeganeh Torbat for PROPUBLICA
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