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U.S. Planning to Limit Citizenship for Immigrants Getting Welfare Benefits: Report

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Availing essential benefits under public welfare programs in the United States may become a ground for rejection of applications of documented immigrants seeking extension of stay or permanent citizenship of the country, according to reports.

White House adviser Stephen Miller is pushing to hasten the finalization and enforcement process of the proposal to curb “legal” immigration, according to CNN.

According to a proposal being considered by the Trump administration, legal immigrants would find it harder to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used state social benefits such as Obamacare, NBC News reported, citing sources.

American authorities are already allowed to reject immigrants if they are a potential “public charge” or dependent on the government, the CNN report said. But the reviewed draft would include programs as expansive as health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, as well as some forms of Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit, it added.

The category could be expanded to include an immigrant who has received any government assistance, such as a free bus pass or federal emergency relief after a natural disaster, the Independent reported. “This could really be expanded to all sorts of crazy things,” the publication quoted Bruce Coane, an immigration attorney who practices in Texas and Florida, as saying. “This administration has become very creative in coming up with ways to deny and exclude immigrants,” Coane added.

This proposal is under consideration of the Office of Management and Budget since March.

In February this year, Reuters had published a news story citing a leaked draft, saying that the Department of Homeland Security has drafted some rules that would allow immigration officers to decide a person’s eligibility to immigrate to America or stay in the country. If the applicant or his family members are getting any benefit of these social welfare schemes, it may be taken as a ground to reject the application.

Even benefits taken by U.S. citizens, who may be the spouse or child of the applicant, will be subjected to this rule during the scrutiny of the immigrants’ application.

It doesn’t, however, mean that legal immigrants will not be entitled to avail the social welfare programs. According to the proposal, officials will have the authority to reject their application of extension of stay or green card if they are seen as a burden on the government.

The change could affect over 20 million immigrants, NBC News reported, citing immigration lawyers and public  health researchers. Low-income immigrants will be the most vulnerable to the impact of the new rules.

Even before the implementation of the new rules, many immigrants have started to drop out of these benefits, fearing that the aid could become a threat to their application for permanent residence in the country, the New York Times had reported earlier this year.

“The rumor mill is rampant, and the fear is palpable. The stakes for what could happen in the future are incredibly high, and people just aren’t willing to take that risk,” the report quoted Lisa David, president and chief executive of the non-profit organization, Public Health Solutions said, as saying.

DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton had said earlier this year that the government aims at protecting taxpayers’ money. “The administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer by ensuring that foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the U.S are self-sufficient,” Houlton said. “Any proposed changes would ensure that the government takes the responsibility of being good stewards of taxpayer funds seriously and adjudicates immigration benefit requests in accordance with the law.”