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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

52 mins ago - Health

CDC panel recommends Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A key panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people 65 years old and older, as well as those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: The approval is the near-final step in making the booster shots available to tens of millions of Americans, and comes a day after the FDA approved Pfizer boosters for the two groups. CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to accept the recommendation.

DHS temporarily suspends use of horse patrol in Del Rio

U.S. Border Patrol agents watch as Haitian immigrant families cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into Del Rio, Texas on Sept. 23, 2021. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of horse patrol in Del Rio, Texas a DHS spokesperson confirmed.

Why it matters: The suspension comes after images showing border patrol agents whipping at and charging their horses at migrants surfaced earlier in the week, prompting widespread criticism of the Biden administration's handling of the crisis at the border.

Southwest drought is worst on record, NOAA finds

In a stark new report, a team of NOAA and independent researchers found the 2020-2021 drought across the Southwest is the worst in the instrumental record, which dates to 1895.

Why it matters: They also concluded that global warming is making it far more severe, primarily by increasing average temperatures, which boosts evaporation.