A new policy introduced by President Donald Trump on Monday will dramatically redraw regulations for legal immigrants to the U.S. by penalizing green-card applicants who use food-assistance programs, Medicaid, or housing vouchers. The formalized rule, which BuzzFeed News reports has been in the works since last September at the hands of White House hardliners, will take effect in 60 days. The new interpretation of the “public charge” rule is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows the government to deny permanent residency to immigrants determined to be a financial burden on society. The Trump administration’s formalized version of the rule specifically points to enrollment in food stamps, Medicare, or housing voucher programs as proof immigrants rely on the federal government for financial support or will be likely to in the future. NPR reports immigration officials will also factor in an applicant’s education level, household income, and health.
Those who support immigrant rights worry the new policy will hurt those most in need. “Numerous studies, by MPI and others, have found the rule would result in disenrollment from public-benefits programs by many immigrants, including those not directly affected by the rule, as well as U.S.-born dependents,” according to a report by the Migration Policy Institute. “Already, there are anecdotal reports by service providers of people disenrolling from public-benefit programs amid fear or confusion about the rule.”