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Trump Weighs Making Public Benefits a Barrier for Legal Residency

News reports say the Trump administration is close to releasing a proposal that would make it more difficult for immigrants to gain legal U.S. residency if they have received a wide range of non-cash public benefits, such as coverage through the Children's Health Insurance Program. 

The federal government has long been able to deny permanent residency to a person deemed to be a "public charge," or supported by the government. Currently, direct cash benefits (welfare) and government-funded long-term care were considered in public charge determinations. The new proposal would expand the types of programs that would be considered in public charge determinations.

The news organizations Reuters and Vox reported on the proposal earlier this year. In a draft leaked at that time, Head Start was under consideration as a benefit. 

But a newer draft, obtained by the Washington Post and released March 28, states that green card applicants will not be penalized for using Head Start and public education.

However, applicants may be deemed a public charge if they've received support for themselves or their children through a wide variety of other social programs. Those programs include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), subsidized health care through the Affordable Care Act, housing assistance under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit for low to moderate-income working families with children. 

Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, told the Washington Post that the Trump administration "is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer by ensuring that foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the U.S. are self-sufficient." 


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