Since the 19th century, self-sufficiency has been a foundation of U.S. immigration law. The Trump administration has expanded the definition “public charge” concerning immigrants. This policy makes it harder for legal migrants who use public benefits to get a green card. Low-income and less-educated foreigners will have a more difficult time getting into the U.S.
Mike Howell, a former Department of Homeland Security and now an advisor at the Heritage Foundation, says, “If fully enforced, it’s the most consequential action of this administration on immigration to date, perhaps the most consequential action in decades. In terms of preventing people from coming in, it’s huge. In addition, it will certainly add a lot more folks to the ‘to be removed from the interior’ tally.”
The new rule applies to immigrants both already in the U.S. and new migrants. It broadens the categories of public assistance that can be a detriment to someone getting a “green card” which is necessary for permanent residency. Such programs as Medicaid, food stamps and subsidized housing are included as public benefits. Prospective immigrants will be judged by their skills, assets, and health; a merit-based system, while the current system relies on family connections. Families of “mixed-status” (noncitizen parents with citizen children) may face having to leave the U.S. or splitting up the family. Exempted will be pregnant women, children, refugees, asylum-seekers, and immigrants serving in the U.S. military.
In 2017 the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that immigration has “an overall positive impact on the long-run economic growth in the U.S.” But it takes until the second generation for the benefit to be realized. During their first year, native-born Americans cost the government less than immigrant babies, about $1,600 per child. But in their contribution to the U.S. economy, second-generation immigrants contribute substantially more than native-born children.