The Trump administration announced Monday that it is moving ahead with one of its most aggressive steps to restrict legal immigration, denying green cards to many immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, or other forms of public assistance. Federal law already requires those seeking green cards and legal status to prove they will not be a burden to the US—a "public charge"—but the new rules detail a broader range of programs that could disqualify them, the AP reports. Much of President Trump's effort to crack down on illegal immigration has been in the spotlight, but this rule change targets people who entered the United States legally and are seeking permanent status. It's part of a push to move the US to a system that focuses on immigrants' skills instead of emphasizing the reunification of families.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services officers will now weigh public assistance along with other factors such as education, household income, and health to determine whether to grant legal status. The rules will take effect in mid-October. They don't apply to US citizens, even if the US citizen is related to an immigrant who is subject to them. Immigrants make up a small percentage of those who get public benefits. In fact, many are ineligible for public benefits because of their immigration status. But advocates worry the rules will scare immigrants into not asking for help. And they are concerned the rules give too broad an authority to decide whether someone is likely to need public assistance at any time, giving immigration officials the ability to deny legal status to more people. Lawsuits are expected. (Click for more on the specifics of the new rules.)