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Immigrants on Public Assistance Will be Denied Green Cards as Trump Moves Toward a Merit Based Immigration System

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By Jon Dougherty for The National Sentinel

(NationalSentinel) In a bid to make the U.S. immigration system more merit-based, long a goal of President Donald Trump, his administration will begin denying “green cards” to migrants who are currently accepting public assistance.

The objective of the policy change is to ensure that immigrants applying for citizenship in the United States will not immediately become burdens on society.

And while that law has been on the books for some time now, the Trump administration is expanding disqualifiers for citizenship to include an immigrant’s reliance on programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance.

“We certainly expect people of any income to stand on their own two feet,” said Ken Cuccinelli, acting director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). “If people are not able to be self-sufficient, then this negative factor is going to bear very heavily against them in a decision about whether they’ll be able to become a legal permanent resident” or, eventually, a citizen.

Critics are already decrying the decision as unfair to “immigrant communities” and, of course, “racist.”  New York Attorney General Letitia James said her office will sue the administration to stop the new rules, while officials in California are considering similar legal action.

It’s unclear whether opponents will have much of a case, however, though they are likely to succeed in the early phases of a federal court battle through judge-shopping. But the law denying some benefits to immigrants and green card applicants has been in place since 1999 and hasn’t been successfully challenged up to this point.

Also, it’s been a goal of the president to transform the U.S. immigration system into one that is more merit-based, on the model of Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Those governments, according to the Migration Policy Center, “use points-based systems in which governments take the lead, selecting among prospective immigrants based on labor and human-capital considerations, including professional experience, education, holding a job offer, and destination-country language proficiency.”

The policy center detailed the crux of the president’s plan:

At its core, however, the proposal developed by Trump senior advisor Jared Kushner seeks to move the United States away from a system that is predominantly family based and toward one that favors applicants with desirable labor-market attributes, to be selected using a points system. The proposal of a points system both looks to the mechanisms adopted by other high-income countries for selecting economic migrants and revives some elements of prior U.S. legislative proposals.

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Among the changes outlined, it would eliminate most of the current categories of family-sponsored immigrant visas, leaving permanent family pathways only for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The number of grants of permanent residence (also known as green cards) eliminated from family categories would be diverted to a new category, coined the “Build America Visa,” that would replace all current employment-based green-card categories. This newly created category would include immigrants who possess extraordinary talent, professionals and those in specialized vocations, and those with exceptional academic achievement. In this selection system, applicants would be allotted points for:

  • youth
  • having a valuable skill
  • having an offer of employment
  • having an advanced degree
  • planning to create jobs
  • earning higher wages.

The problem Trump faces in reforming immigration in general to “create a fair, modern, and lawful system,” as he outlined in May, is that there isn’t much appetite among Democrats or Republicans for major policy shifts.

Democrats in Congress and those running for the 2020 presidential nomination are in favor, essentially, of open borders — importing a permanent underclass of new citizens that will vote for the party in perpetuity.

Many Republicans are beholden to the Koch Brothers and other big-dollar donors who love the cheaper labor immigrants — legal and otherwise — provide for their corporations and businesses.

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The majority of Americans, however, are on the president’s side, at least as of a year ago. Rasmussen Reports, in a survey, found that 50 percent of likely voters favor a merit-based system versus 34 percent who favor the current family-based system.

The survey also found that the numbers are trending in the president’s favor.

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