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Expand chart
Data: Migration Policy Institute; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios. Note: CHIP is not included in the proposal at this time. Census data could not separate CHIP from Medicaid.

A new rule proposed by the Trump administration over the weekend would disqualify some immigrants from visas and green cards if they use — or are likely to use — federal safety net programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and Section 8 housing vouchers.

Why it matters: There are millions of immigrants in the U.S. who use these programs, according to the Migration Policy Institute's analysis of Census data, and the group estimates that 31% of all non-citizens would be impacted if the rule is finalized. Those applying to be admitted to the the U.S. would also face increased scrutiny of their financial stability and prospects.

Between the lines: There are three key ways the proposed rule would impact the immigrant community, Migration Policy Institute senior fellow Mark Greenberg told Axios:

  1. Legal immigrants: It would be increasingly difficult for legal immigrants who qualify for the specified public benefits to obtain green cards. For some, a denial could even lead to their deportation. Jason Boyd, policy counsel at American Immigration Lawyers Association, told Axios that the rule would "endanger the well-being of families throughout the nation while placing all too many of them at risk of separation."
  2. New immigrants: Immigrants applying for U.S. visas would face tougher tests determining whether they are considered a "public charge." Under current policy, only immigrants who would be primarily dependent on government assistance are considered a public charge, but the proposed rule would greatly broaden that definition.
  3. The chilling effect: Greenberg told Axios he expects the rule to discourage many immigrants from using public benefits they may need out of fear of losing their legal status.

The other side: The Trump administration sees the change as promoting self-sufficiency among immigrants, according to the proposed rule. Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen noted in announcing the proposal that under federal law, "those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially.”

It's impossible to know exactly how many immigrants could end up being denied a green card or visa due to the many factors that would determine who is considered a public charge. And immigration experts worry it could lead to inconsistent decision making.

“The proposed rule would prove broadly destructive... It would also raise to new heights the Trump administration’s invisible wall, further shutting out legal immigrants from the country."
— Jason Boyd

The proposal was softened from earlier, leaked versions. At this point, it does not include CHIP, which provides health coverage for low-income children. The proposed rule asks for comments on whether CHIP should be included in the final version, however.

The exceptions:

  • Many immigrants aren't even eligible for certain public benefits until they have had a green card for a certain number of years, which means the rule wouldn't apply to them, writes Vox's Dara Lind.
  • The rule will also not be applied retroactively — only to immigrants who enroll in social safety net programs after the final rule is implemented.
  • Refugees and asylum seekers are also exempt, and immigrants can obtain benefits for their U.S. citizen children without penalty.

Go deeper

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."