US President Donald Trump's administration unveiled new immigration rules that could dramatically cut the number of legal immigrants allowed to enter and stay in the US in half by denying visas and permanent residency.
Federal law already requires those seeking green cards and legal status to prove they will not be a burden to the United States, or what's called a "public charge," but the new rules detail a broader range of programs that could disqualify them.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services officers will now consider an immigrant's use of non-cash government-assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid, as a negative factor in determining their eligibility for a green card or temporary visa along with other factors such as education, household income and health.
To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient"
Under the new rules, more than half of all family-based green card applicants would be denied, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a research organization. Some 800,000 green cards were granted in 2016.
In a press release, the White House claimed Trump was ensuring non-citizens do not abuse "our nation's public benefits".
"To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient," Trump was quoted as saying. "Aliens will be barred from entering the United States if they are found likely to become public charges," said the White House.
"Aliens in the United States who are found likely to become public charges will also be barred from adjusting their immigration status."
The 837-page rule takes effect in mid-October and applies to those seeking to come to or remain in the United States via legal channels and is expected to impact roughly 382,000 people seeking to adjust their immigration, according to the Department of Homeland Security. However, immigration advocates say millions of people could be affected by the regulation.
But experts have said the plan could be the most drastic of Donald Trump's efforts to restrict both legal and illegal immigration and could cut new green cards by half.
About one in seven adults in immigrant families reported that either the person or a family member did not participate in a non-cash safety net program last year because of fear of risking his or her green card status in the future, an Urban Institute study found.
Among low-income immigrant families, the figure was more than one in five, according to the study, which was based on a December 2018 survey of nearly 2,000 non-elderly adults who are foreign born or live with at least one foreign-born family member.