The Trump administration continues to try and make it easier for immigrants – even legal ones – to be sent back to their country of origin. A new proposal from the Department of Justice (DOJ), while still in the draft stage, has been revealed to target immigrants who are receiving benefits from the government.
It appears that this new proposal, which is not a law yet, also aims to prevent poorer immigrants from entering the United States, Reuters has been permitted to view the proposal and they have reported on its contents.
The new document uses the term “public charge” to refer to the immigrants receiving public benefits. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also refining its definition of the meaning of “public charge” and preparing a similar document.
Current Federal law prohibits immigrants from receiving public benefits for five years after they receive their green card, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps, housing assistance, cash welfare, and Medicaid.
The DHS proposal is expected to redefine “public charge” as any foreigner who receives one or more of these public benefits. This new definition may enable them to work around the five-year rule.
The proposal by the Department of Justice is similar, and it encourages immigration judges to consider whether a potential applicant for immigration is likely to become a public charge. If so, it should be considered as a negative factor towards being admitted to the U.S.
Possible Lawsuits Expected
Problems of a legal nature, including lawsuits, will likely stem as a result of this proposed law. Many states do not follow the five-year rule, granting benefits to immigrants regardless of it.
Some states currently allow for a pregnant woman, who is a permanent resident, to be put on Medicaid even though she has not met the five-year requirement. Some children can also receive the same benefit.
Even though there are a number of immigrants who could be deported for violating the five-year rule, very few have ever been forced back to their country of origin. Many of them have been a “public charge” for some time.
Although the five-year rule is currently treated leniently, when it is discovered that an immigrant did not declare the existence of a pre-existing disease that requires financial aid for medical treatment, deportation becomes a much more likely occurrence.
A ruling made in 1948 has made it much more difficult to deport an immigrant for receiving public benefits in less than five years. The ruling limits deportation to instances where payment for public services was demanded but never paid. Lawyers who handle immigration cases reveal that hardly anyone has been deported for this reason.
The Proposed Changes
The draft document indicates that the government does not intend to follow the previous precedent. It will enforce the five-year rule and attempt to deport people who have broken it.
Some immigrants are immune to this ruling because they perform a civic responsibility such as active duty military personnel. Other groups who have been previously immune to the five-year rule but are now at risk include refugees, people seeking asylum, and even immigrants who have been in the U.S. armed forces (not currently active).
One of the goals of this new ruling is to prevent impoverished immigrants from coming to America by requiring applicants to list their assets, income, and current debts. This way, the DOJ can refuse entrance to the applicants most likely to require federal aid or support.
This guideline has already had some effect on immigration. Immigrant visas have been refused to immigrants on the basis of poverty and the likelihood of becoming a public charge at a rate four times greater in 2018 than in 2017.
Legal experts who work with immigrants are fearful of the new changes because they cannot yet predict what it will mean or how far it will go. Some feel that the new rules could extend to those who have had their green card for five years or more. Even if resident immigrants meet the qualifications set by the DOJ, there is still a possibility of deportation under these new regulations.
All of the details in the new document are not set in stone yet, and it could end up being even more widespread. State laws may not be able to be upheld in court since the Justice Department oversees the courts that handle immigration cases.
Already, there are some restrictions as to who is allowed to enter the U.S. Some time ago, President Trump placed a restriction that does not allow people from certain known terrorist supporting countries to come here.
Another issue that may be added to the immigration document is the matter of E-verification.
As it is currently voluntary, there is a consideration to make the verification mandatory before an immigrant can be hired. This would provide employers with a way to confirm whether an immigrant has the right to work in the country or not.
President Trump used the idea as part of his campaign in 2015, but it has not been brought up since that time. If it becomes mandatory, an employer would be required to use the system to verify the right of a potential employee to work.
At this time, it is not a part of the new immigration document mentioned above, but it could still be added. There is also a possibility that it could be passed as an entirely separate document
Skills Needed for Entry
If the DOJ document is passed, it would be used to alter the demographics of incoming immigrants, but it would not change the number of admittances. It would do this by only permitting immigrants to come who had desirable skills and would be hired by companies at wages that could sustain them and their families.
This system is limited in the number of immigrants it would permit to enter. Currently, the United States permits more than one million immigrants to lawfully enter the country each year. By limiting the number of immigrants only to those who have desirable skills, it would only affect 140,000 immigrants – the rest come through other categories such as having relatives in the U.S. on a lottery basis.
The real problem, some say, is not so much as who can come into the country, but how many. Already, it is believed that there are 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, says the Pew Research Center. None of these documents deal with the number of immigrants that can come into America, and that seems to be part of the problem for some.
At one point in his political career, President Trump indicated that he felt that the United States needs to keep the immigrant flow high. He said this because the unemployment rate is low and more employees are needed.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, indicated that the government needs to raise the limit for seasonal workers. It currently provides 66,000 temporary visas for seasonal workers that are non-agricultural, which are offered each year. Kushner stated that this number will be raised another 30,000.
Problems at the Border
President Trump, as many know, is trying hard to limit the number of illegal immigrants coming into the country at the southern border. In April of this year, the Border Patrol arrested 99,000 of them.
The new plan seeks to reduce this number. Part of the plan includes provisions to increase security at the southern border’s ports of entry. It calls for the modernization of these ports, enabling them to be able to scan all vehicles, people, and packages.
Some groups, such as the Center for Immigration Studies, want to see the immigration numbers reduced. This was a part of Trump’s campaign plan originally, and the group also believes that it could hurt Trump’s campaign for reelection in 2020.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has reminded the President that reducing the immigrant numbers was part of his original campaign. Some see it as a means to divide the Republicans and to unite the Democrats.
So far, Kushner’s plan has not yet been seen by the Democrats. The plan is to be completed and then sent to President Trump in a couple of days for his desired revisions. Once it is complete, the President will decide what he will do with it.
Whether or not the bill could ever be passed into law remains to be seen. A number of Republicans have already indicated agreement with the plan, but how to bring the Democrats to approve has yet to be seen.
Some Democrats and Republicans may consider the plan to be too broad to be of much good. It does not offer any protection for Dreamers (Democrats) and it does not reduce the number of immigrants (Republicans).
President Trump attempted to pass legislation last year but it failed. Some doubt that it could pass this year due to a lack of interest in wide changes that do not address all the issues that some would like to see.