WASHINGTON — President Trump on Monday broadened his assault on the nation’s immigration system, issuing a new rule targeting legal immigrants who want to remain in the United States but whose lack of financial resources are judged likely to make them a burden on taxpayers.
The new regulation is aimed at hundreds of thousands of immigrants who enter the country legally every year and then apply to become permanent residents. Starting in October, the government’s decision will be based on an aggressive wealth test to determine whether those immigrants have the means to support themselves.
Poor immigrants will be denied permanent legal status, also known as a green card, if they are deemed likely to use government benefit programs such as food stamps and subsidized housing. Wealthier immigrants, who are designated as less likely to require public assistance, will be able to obtain a green card.
Officials said the program would not apply to people who already have green cards, to certain members of the military, to refugees and asylum-seekers, or to pregnant women and children. But immigration advocates warned that vast numbers of immigrants, including those not actually subject to the regulation, may drop out of programs they need because they fear retribution by immigration authorities.
“This news is a cruel new step toward weaponizing programs that are intended to help people by making them, instead, a means of separating families and sending immigrants and communities of color one message: You are not welcome here,” said Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.
She added: “It will have a dire humanitarian impact, forcing some families to forgo critical lifesaving health care and nutrition. The damage will be felt for decades to come.”
Mr. Trump has long insisted that the United States should welcome immigrants based only on the “merit” they demonstrate. And he has disparaged the idea of letting immigrants into the United States from poor and underdeveloped nations, which he once described in the most vulgar of terms.
By Michael D. Shear and Eileen Sullivan for THE NEW YORK TIMES
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