The Department of Homeland Security Has Found a New, Horrific Way to Punish Immigrants

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The Department of Homeland Security, eternally committed to finding new and creative ways to screw immigrants and people of color in the United States, is threatening to deny residency to immigrants who use virtually any public benefit—including claiming common tax credits.

The Washington Post obtained a copy of a new DHS policy proposal that will, per the Post, punish immigrants “who accept almost any form of welfare or public benefit, even popular tax deductions” by denying immigrants visas, visa extensions, or permanent residency status if officials deem that they receive, or are likely to receive such benefits. While media outlets previously reported on the proposal, the full draft shows how far Trump’s administration is willing to go to deny immigrants basic public services and increase their vulnerability to deportation—regardless of status.

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Currently, DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services considers non-citizens inadmissible if they are seen as a “public charge”—that is, if they are “likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” In the new proposal, DHS outlines that individuals applying for residency must prove they are “not likely at any time to become a public charge”:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposes to change how it determine whether an alien is inadmissible to the United States because he or she is likely at any time to become a public charge consistent with section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Aliens who are seeking adjustment of status or an immigrant visa, or who are applicants for admission, must all establish that they are not likely at any time to become a public charge. Moreover, DHS will require aliens seeking an extension of stay or change of status demonstrate that they are not using or receiving, nor likely to use or receive, public benefits.

However, DHS is sneakily trying to expand the definition of “public charge” to include additional government programs, including health insurance subsidies, the Earned Income Tax Credit—claimed by an estimated 20 percent of all Americans—and other “non-cash public benefits.”

The Post describes the changes:

Under the proposed changes, immigration caseworkers would not consider benefits derived from service in the armed forces or some other government job, as well as disability, workers’ compensation and Medicare, unless the premiums are fully paid by the public. It would also exclude elementary and secondary public education and early childhood development programs offered under the Head Start Act.

But children would be considered a negative factor for caseworkers evaluating whether an immigrant is likely to use some form of public assistance or benefit.

“An applicant’s family status is a factor that must be considered when an immigration officer is making a public charge determination,” the proposal states. “DHS will consider whether the alien being a dependent or having dependents . . . makes it more or less likely that the alien will become a public charge.”

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It’s worth noting, too, that according to USCIS, immigrants use public assistance at the same rates as U.S. citizens—so this new policy isn’t just an overreaction to immigrants using public benefits. It’s simply a reaction to immigrants existing in America.

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Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is a senior reporter at Jezebel.

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