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USCIS to consider welfare status of green card applicants

by Lynde Langdon
Posted 8/14/19, 12:01 pm

Receiving welfare benefits such as food stamps or Medicaid could disqualify some immigrants from getting their green cards, the Trump administration announced this week. Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli’s defense of the rule has received heavy coverage and criticism. He said people seeking permanent residency should be able to “stand on their own two feet.” Historically, immigrants have had to show they had a means of support from family, friends, or the community, but they have not had to prove financial independence as a condition for remaining in the United States.

How many people would this change affect? Most new arrivals to the United States aren’t eligible for welfare because of their immigration status. The rule tells USCIS officials to consider welfare status as one of a variety of factors that could result in someone becoming a “public charge.” It doesn’t apply to refugees, asylum recipients, pregnant mothers, or members of the U.S. armed forces.

Dig deeper: The move has people debating the meaning of Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus,” part of which is inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Lazarus advocated for impoverished Jewish immigrants who fled persecution in Russia in the late 1800s—long before programs such as Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program existed. Read WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky’s take on the poem, along with Charissa Koh’s report on how many immigrants actually receive welfare.


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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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