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Policy Summary
The acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director, Ken Cuccinelli, announced the Trump Administration’s proposal to limit Green Card applicants and essentially make them more exclusive. This is aimed at the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who enter illegally every year and apply to become permanent residents. Beginning in October – a full year since the first indicator of this policy change – Green Card decisions will be made based on an aggressive wealth test to determine whether applications have the means to support themselves. If applicants are deemed likely to require assistance from government benefit programs (such as food stamps and subsidized housing) they will likely be denied. The new Green Card criteria will examine age, health, family status, resources, education, financial status, and assets. For example, someone with an income equal to or greater than 250% of the poverty line (which comes out to nearly $64,000 for a family of 4) will be less likely to be denied.

Cuccinelli claimed the goal was to bring:

People to join us as American citizens, as legal permanent residents first, who can stand on their own two feet, who will not be reliant on the welfare system, especially in the age of the modern welfare state which is so expansive and expensive

According to the US Citizenship and Immigration services website, to obtain a Green Card entails a few steps. First, an immigrant petition must be filed by a sponsor, or essentially someone who can vouch for the applicant. If this is approved, the individual must fill out a Green Card application with the USCIS or a visa application with the US Department of State (depending on the results of the petition). Then, the individual must go to a biometrics appointment to provide photos, signatures and fingerprints before a final interview. Lastly, they wait for a decision.

San Francisco and Santa Clara counties have filed lawsuits against the Trump Administration to challenge their move to deny permanent residence to legal immigrants who use or potentially will use public-assistance programs; claiming it is both harmful to society and unlawful.

Analysis
This new policy puts a price tag on obtaining permanent residency in the US and favors wealthy or highly skilled immigrants. It shifts away from family-based immigration, a long-standing US outlook. Limiting Green Cards to the upper echelon of society creates uneven immigration, extreme gaps in the labor force, and disregards America’s foundation of providing asylum.

Resistance Resources

  • The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law: a nonpartisan law and policy institute that works to defend and reform – as necessary – the US systems of democracy and justice, focusing on upholding the Constitution and US laws while maintaining national security.
  • Stay up to date with the National Immigration Forum who advocates for the value of immigrants and immigration to the US and promotes responsible immigration policies and addresses those that hinder the success of immigrants.
  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.

This Brief was authored by Kathryn Baron. For inquiries, suggestions or comments email kathryn@usresistnews.org.

Photo by Blake Guidry

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