Trump Administration Orders Crackdown on Public Benefit Rules for Immigrants


In a May 2019 memo, the Trump administration announced its intent to crack down legal immigration by ordering various federal agencies to begin enforcing laws that require sponsoring family members of immigrants to be financially responsible for those immigrants who need public benefits. In other words, if a family member sponsored an immigrant to come to the U.S. legally, and the immigrant needed to draw food stamps or SNAP benefits, the sponsoring family member would be on the hook for paying for those government benefits.

The Trump administration also stated in the memo that it had ordered federal agencies also to consider the sponsor’s financial situation when determining whether a non-citizen is eligible for any public benefits. The net effect of enforcing these two policies is likely to be more disqualifications of immigrants from receiving public benefits, as well as a strong disincentive for immigrants to seek benefits at all.  These policies could lead to significant financial hardships for both the sponsoring relatives and immigrants. Furthermore, these policies also could affect the rate of family-based immigration, although this process is a perfectly legal form of immigration.

People standing behind a barbed wire fence
Trump Administration Orders Crackdown on Public Benefit Rules for Immigrants

These announcements are related to a previous announcement that the Trump administration made regarding the so-called “public charge” rule. Under this rule, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would penalize and in some cases prevent immigrants from obtaining permanent resident status, or green cards, if they have ever participated in public benefits programs, such as housing vouchers or SNAP benefits.

While immigrant children would remain eligible for benefits, immigrant families may be extremely reluctant to seek much-needed public benefits or to even seek reunification of their families in the U.S. due to increased enforcement of these rules. Although these policies do not change existing laws, the Trump administration has ordered the various federal agencies involved to strengthen their administrative rules so as to actively deter low-income immigrants from seeking any form of public assistance.

In the past, the federal government has inconsistently applied such policies. For instance, administrators of the SNAP program always have considered both the resources of the immigrant and his or her sponsor in determining eligibility, but not for the purposes of Medicaid eligibility. Even more concerning is that these rules also could apply to federal programs not typically thought of as public benefits, such as federal student loans. The Peek Law Group immigration lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your immigration issue.

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