White House Proposal Will Limit Residency Eligibility for Immigrants who Rely on Welfare Programs

(ESPAÑOL) A new White House proposal would make it difficult for any immigrant who has used welfare programs to obtain permanent residency.

Currently, immigrants who rely on, or are expected to rely on, the government for more than half of their income are considered “public charges” and can be banned from entering the country or deported, even if they’re otherwise eligible for extended residency.

Immigrants who rely completely on welfare programs or long-term Medicaid benefits are typically considered public charges, but the Trump administration wants to extend those guidelines to include immigrants who use public housing, subsidies to help pay for health insurance, food stamps, income tax credits, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and non-emergency uses of Medicaid, according to a White House draft obtained.

A recent study by The New England Journal of Medicine found that the changes “could have important consequences for access to medical care and the health of millions of immigrants and their families.” An estimated 1 million noncitizens would lose their insurance, the study found.

“If this rule takes effect, it will most likely harm the health of millions of people and undo decades of work by providers nationwide to increase access to medical care for immigrants and their families,” the study concluded.

Experts worry that these changes, or even fear and misunderstanding of these changes, will prevent immigrant families from seeking necessary medical care or properly feeding their families.

Food stamp enrollment recently reached an eight-year low, partially due to immigrants canceling their enrollment out of fear. “I’ve been in touch with a lot of food banks and networks,” a senior policy official at Feeding America told Newsweek in June. “There is a fear and chilling effect from political rhetoric and policy changes around immigration. It’s really concerning.”

In a statement obtained by NBC News, an official at the Department of Homeland Security defended the proposed policy changes, saying that “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.”