A new regulation would deny citizenship to any permanent legal resident who has used a wide range of public benefits—or whose U.S. citizen spouse or child has used those benefits. So far, the regulation is in the drafting and leaking stage, and no one knows for sure when it will be promulgated. It looks like a punitive action that Trump can take on his own, without any administrative review and without consent of Congress.
A draft seen by NBC News would deny legal residence or citizenship to “immigrants living legally in the U.S. who have ever used or whose household members have ever used Obamacare, children’s health insurance, food stamps and other benefits.” The “other benefits” include various public health benefits, housing subsidies, and even the earned income tax credit. According to the NBC report:
“Many are like Louis Charles, a Haitian green-card holder seeking citizenship who, despite working up to 80 hours a week as a nursing assistant, has had to use public programs to support his disabled adult daughter….Although she is in her 20s and a U.S. citizen, she has severe disabilities that make it impossible for her to live by herself.”
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton wrote to administration officials, pointing out the dangers of the proposed regulation:
“A particularly egregious aspect of this draft rule is that it would include benefits received by an applicant’s American citizen children. If an applicant’s citizen child has accessed any of these benefits for which he or she is legally eligible, it would … threaten their parents’ immigration status and possible family reunification.
“Sadly, the rule is already having an effect, regardless of the fact that it has yet to be released. Social service providers in Minnesota report that just the prospect of this draft rule has begun causing children and adults to fear accessing safety net programs. …
“Frightening children away from accessing needed social programs is particularly dangerous for Minnesota’s children. Leaving children in situations of deprivation contributes to adverse childhood experiences, which have lifelong consequences …
“Making eligible women, men, and children afraid to access health care coverage causes serious public health consequences. If people decide to forego well-child visits or receive needed immunizations because they withdraw from health care coverage, teh entire state is put at risk for preventable disease outbreaks. Last year’s measles outbreak in Minnesota cost our state over $1 million. Likewise, pregnant women should never be deterred from accessing needed prenatal care or well-baby visits. Restricting health care access often results in people allowing their health problems to worsen before being treated. Such an increase in uncompensated are drives up the cost of health care for everyone in our state.”
Dayton closed by urging the rejection of “this harmful, cruel draft rule.”
A Star Tribune article said that the rule could affect half of Minnesota’s immigrant families, and gave examples of families already avoiding receiving health care:
“Monica Hurtado, a community organizer with Voices for Racial Justice, a Minneapolis nonprofit, said she has received a half-dozen calls from Latino immigrants in recent months seeking advice on whether to continue receiving public health benefits. Several callers were pregnant women wanting to know if they should forgo prenatal care to avoid jeopardizing their residency status. She said an immigrant mother was nervous about accepting a car seat for her newborn, because it was paid for by her public health insurance plan.
“It makes me so sad that I want to cry,” Hurtado said. “The fear is already out there.”
The legal authorization for this sweeping change is that it is a redefinition of the “public charge” rule that says no one can enter the United States if they are likely to become a public charge. The Star Tribune explains: “In the past, this determination was based on a narrow set of cash-based assistance programs and only applied to those who were deemed to be “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.”