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‘Sawing off the lantern arm of the Statue of Liberty’

(WASHINGTON) – The National Partnership for New Americans strongly condemns the proposed regulation that the Trump Administration announced on Saturday to exclude immigrants from receiving lawful permanent residency (LPR) based on their use of public benefits. 

The proposed regulation would expand the circumstances where U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers will reject an applicant for LPR status because they are a “public charge.” Under the proposed regulation, USCIS would broaden the definition of “public charge” to those immigrants who are receiving critical services such as Medicaid, Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy, food stamps, and Section 8 and public housing benefits. 

“This is a very nasty attack by an administration that prides itself in its cruel attacks on the most vulnerable immigrants and refugees,” said Stephen Choi, co-chair of the National Partnership for New Americans and Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “The Statue of Liberty talks of the U.S. welcoming ‘your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.’ The administration is making good on its promise to shut out the hungry, attack the tired, and penalize the poor. It is as if the Trump administration just sent out a Homeland Security crew out to saw off the lantern arm of the Statue of Liberty!”  

The proposed regulation would limit those who can receive LPR status based on class, and force would-be-eligible LPR applicants to choose between receiving life-changing benefits that impact their health, nutrition, and ability to have housing, or obtaining LPR status. The regulation has yet to be formally proposed, and once it is, the public will have 60 days to comment. The Trump administration will then publish the regulation in the Federal Register, making it law as of the regulation’s effective date.

Public outrage over early drafts of the regulation drafts has already been successful in ensuring that the current version, as opposed to previous ones, does not deny LPR status to applicants based on their family members receiving benefits. The proposed regulation would prevent LPR applicants from receiving that LPR status if they received assistance with food, housing, or healthcare. The proposed public charge regulation would not directly impact LPR’s eligibility for U.S. citizenship based on their use of such benefits. It would, however, indirectly impact applicants for citizenship, by limiting the amount of immigrants who can obtain LPR status, and, thus, years later, can obtain citizenship. “This proposed public charge regulation tells us that, in effect, the Trump administration would like U.S. citizenship to be a privilege limited to wealthy immigrants,” said Diego Iniguez-Lopez, NPNA Policy and Communications Associate, “and that is profoundly un-American. This is just one more brick in USCIS’s ‘Second Wall’ preventing lawfully present immigrants from becoming voting U.S. citizens.” The last two years have seen the backlogs of immigrants who have applied to become U.S. citizens skyrocket to well over 753,000, and USCIS has begun new efforts to strip away the U.S. citizenship of immigrants who have been naturalized for decades. 

NPNA rejects this un-American effort to favor wealthy immigrants over ‘the poor, the tired and the huddled masses.’ NPNA will mobilize its members and allies across the nation to oppose this proposed rule. In addition, we will train our members’ legal services teams and the thousands of Community Navigators who we work with to educate our communities about what this rule will actually do, how working poor immigrants can safely provide food and healthcare to their families, and what are reasonable protections to take.