- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2018

Homeland Security over the weekend announced new rules designed to enforce a long-standing, but also long-ignored, requirement that migrants who come to the U.S. not become a burden on American taxpayers.

The proposal, which still must go through public comment before being finalized, reverses Clinton-era rules that had severely limited the number of checks the government performs on migrants.

Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who signed the proposal on Friday, said the goal of the new plan is to push migrants to either be self-sufficient or else to rely on their family or another sponsor, rather than to take assistance from the government.

As written, the rules would require immigration officers to evaluate would-be migrants to see if they appear capable of being self-sufficient. If they appear likely to end up as a “public charge,” they can be denied a visa or denied the ability to adjust to a more permanent legal status.

Homeland Security says the government stands to save nearly $20 billion over the next decade in benefits it will no longer have to pay out because migrants will decline to take them.

“Under long-standing federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially,” said Ms. Nielsen. “This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”

Federal law has envisioned these sorts of checks dating back to the 1880s, and for decades after that the danger of becoming a public charge was the most common reason someone was denied entry to the U.S.

But in recent years the government has stopped pushing the issue.

The Washington Times reported in 2016 that out of five major countries for immigration to the U.S., just three people were cited for being public charges in the years from 2013 to 2015. And just one of those cases was actually sustained by immigration judges.

Despite the lax enforcement, immigrant use of public benefits is high.

Homeland Security estimated that 2 percent of noncitizens received cash benefits, and 20 percent got non-cash benefits such as food stamps or public housing.

Under the Clinton rules the government only looked at cash assistance welfare payments, Social Security and Medicaid benefits. The new proposal would add food stamps, public housing and long-term institutionalized care to the list.

Disaster relief, assistance to immigrants serving in the armed forces or their families, and emergency medical care would not count against a migrant.

The administration’s move had been rumored for months, and immigrant-rights advocates had been awaiting the final move with trepidation.

Over the weekend they were quick to blast the new proposal.

“Trump wants you to think Latinos and immigrants are rapists and murderers, they vote illegally against him, they are lazy and at the same time are stealing American jobs. Today he’s selling the lie that immigrants weaken the U.S. economy when exactly the opposite is true,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat.

He said the proposal goes beyond GOP opposition to illegal immigration and puts Republicans on record as favoring restrictions on legal immigrants, too.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra vowed to challenge what he called a “reckless proposal.”

Advocates said the changes would also affect U.S. citizen children by snaring parents who are not citizens and pushing them to forgo benefits that might help their kids.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice claimed racism, saying the administration was “using public assistance as a proxy for race.” The committee said that would make the proposal unconstitutional.

“The proposed policy change is already producing a profound chilling effect,” the Lawyers’ Committee said. “Families are scared. They are foregoing life-saving services to qualify for immigration protection and relief. It is cruel to make a family choose between putting food on the table or getting a green card.”

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