Connecticut on Monday said it will try to stop a new Trump administration policy that will make it harder for immigrants who rely on government social programs, such as food stamps, to obtain permanent legal status.
Calling it part of a “cruel and racist campaign,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said he intends to join other states in a challenge to the new rule. That rule is part of a of a far-reaching policy aimed at slowing the flow of legal immigration and reducing the number of poor immigrants by forbidding admittance into the United States those deemed at risk of becoming “public charges.”
“The Trump Administration’s illegal and unconstitutional new scheme is a direct attack on access to the American dream,” Tong said “This country was built by immigrants like my parents who worked themselves up from poverty. This rule is the latest chapter in this Administration’s cruel and racist campaign to intimidate and punish immigrants of color.”
Tong said he is “in close coordination with partner states and am prepared to take imminent legal action to block this unlawful and hurtful rule.”
Under the new Trump administration policy, wealth, education, age and English-language skills will take on greater weight in applications for a green card, or permanent residency.
Meanwhile, the new rule will broaden the definition of a public charge to include not just those primarily dependent on public financial assistance programs, but also anyone who uses a public benefit such as Medicaid, food stamps, other nutrition-related programs, or housing assistance.
The rule change will take effect Oct. 15, 2019. It defines a public charge as an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period.
Ken Cuccineli, acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, announced the “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” rule during a press briefing at the White House on Monday.
“President Trump is enforcing this longstanding law to prevent aliens from depending on public benefit programs,” said a White House press release on the subject. “The Immigration and Nationality Act makes clear that those seeking to come to the United States cannot be a public charge. For many years, this clear legal requirement went largely unenforced, imposing vast burdens on American taxpayers. Now, public charge law will finally be utilized.”
Cuccineli said the new policy would encourage “self-reliance and self-sufficiency for those seeking to come to or to stay in the United States.”
Immigration activists are concerned that the new rule would have a chilling effect on legal immigrants and stop them from using public benefits they are otherwise eligible for.
They also say permanent residents and naturalized citizens may also be afraid of applying for public benefits, thinking it may impact their ability to remain in the United States.