Trump Administration Introduces Controversial 'Public Charge' Rule That Will Make It Easier to Deny Immigrants Green Cards

The Trump administration has released the final version of its controversial "public charge" rule—the latest measure in the government's ongoing hardline crackdown on immigration in the U.S.

Published in the Federal Register, the rule is expected to be officially released on Wednesday and will go into effect 60 days later.

Speaking at a White House press briefing Monday morning, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said the rule would help promote "self-reliance" among immigrants.

"Throughout history, self-reliance has been a core principle in America," Cuccinelli said. "Through the public charge rule, President Trump's administration is enforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility."

The widely condemned rule would effectively see the definition of who can be considered a "public charge"—someone who relies on government assistance through public benefits—expanded, to the likely detriment of certain low-income immigrants.

Detailed in a more than 800-page-long document, the measure would ask immigration caseworkers to consider immigrants' use of government benefits, including housing, Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to determine whether they will be a "burden" on the country.

If applicants are found to make use of such programs, it could be considered a "negative factor" by officials considering their green card or temporary visa applications.

A recent study found that news of the Trump administration's plans to institute the rule change had already brought about a "chilling effect" on immigrant families living in the U.S.

According to the study, conducted by the Urban Institute, one in seven adults (13.7 percent) in immigrant households said that either they or their family members had chosen not to participate in a non-cash benefit program in 2018 "out of fear of risking future green card status."

Among adults in low-income families, the rate was found to be even higher, with one in five (20.7 percent) adults saying they were too frightened to seek out benefits for fear of negatively affecting their chances of securing positive results in their green card or visa applications.

While the Trump administration has said that its rule change would not affect non-U.S. citizens who are already permanent residents in the U.S., researchers found evidence of a "chilling effect" even among that group.

"While the proposed rule does not affect noncitizens who are already permanent residents, we still find that 14.7 percent of adults in families in which all noncitizens are also permanent residents reported not participating in a noncash benefit program," the Urban Institute said in a statement on its findings.

Meanwhile, researchers found that in families where all foreign-born members were citizens, one in 10 adults (9.3 percent) shared the same fears.

The Trump administration's expansion of the "public charge" rule was formally announced last fall, with opportunities for public comment closing in December.

By the time the 60-day public comment window on the proposal had closed on December 10, more than 260,097 comments had been logged, with many of the comments condemning the plan.

In October, 22 Democratic senators signed a letter addressed to the Homeland Security department warning that "frightening people away from critical resources will compromise families and communities across our country.

"The nutrition, health and stability that impacted services provide have been repeatedly shown to help children succeed... If this rule goes into effect, hardworking families would try to make ends meet with less—hurting children—for no other reason than to advance this administration's anti-immigrant agenda," the letter said.

Acting Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ken Cuccinelli attends a naturalization ceremony inside the National September 11 Memorial Museum on July 2, 2019 in New York City. Cuccinelli has announced the rollout of the Trump administration's widely-condemned 'public charge' rule. Drew Angerer/Getty