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AirTalk Debates: Tightening Green Card Access For Legal Immigrants Who Use Public Benefits

A sample of a United States permanent resident card or
A sample of a United States permanent resident card or "green card"
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

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The Trump administration announced Monday that it is moving ahead with one of its most aggressive steps to restrict legal immigration, denying green cards to many immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers or other forms of public assistance.

Federal law already requires those seeking green cards and legal status to prove they will not be a burden to the U.S. — a “public charge” —but the new rules detail a broader range of programs that could disqualify them.

Much of President Donald Trump’s effort to crack down on illegal immigration has been in the spotlight, but this rule change targets people who entered the United States legally and are seeking permanent status. It’s part of a push to move the U.S. to a system that focuses on immigrants’ skills instead of emphasizing the reunification of families.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers will now weigh public assistance along with other factors such as education, household income and health to determine whether to grant legal status.

We debate the change, both on public policy and legal grounds.

With files from the Associated Press 


Jan C. Ting, professor of law emeritus at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; he was the assistant commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the US DOJ from 1990-1993

Kamal Essaheb, deputy director of the National Immigration Law Center, an immigrant rights organization which will be filing a lawsuit to challenge the public charge rule