Washington — The Trump administration on Monday began enforcing stringent income-based requirements for green cards and certain visas, instituting the most ambitious unilateral effort in recent history to change the nation’s legal immigration system.
After multiple legal barriers blocking the implementation of the new requirements were cleared by the conservative-leaning Supreme Court, most green card applicants in the U.S. and abroad will now be subjected to a redefined “public charge” test. Under the rules by the Departments of State and Homeland Security, immigration officials have more power to deny applications from petitioners they deem are, or could become, an economic burden on the country.
The sweeping policy change, one of the administration’s top immigration priorities, is expected to block the entry of hundreds of thousands of people, disproportionately affecting prospective immigrants from Asia, Africa and Latin America, according to experts.
Since it unveiled the final regulation last summer, the administration has portrayed it as a way to promote “self-sufficiency” among immigrant communities. “(The rule) enforces longstanding law requiring aliens to be self-sufficient, reaffirming the American ideals of hard work, perseverance and determination,” said Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Immigrant advocates and Democrats, however, say the rule amounts to a wealth test that will revive a discriminatory immigration system that shuts America’s doors to low-income and working-class immigrants from the developing world.
“In 1924, our policy explicitly made it much harder for people from some parts of the world than others to come here. There were country-based quotas and there were country-based categorical exclusions for Asian immigrants,” Julia Gelatt, a senior analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, told CBS News.
“Today, it’s not quite as explicit, but by placing such drawn emphasis on people’s income and income potential, by putting in place what is essentially a wealth test, this public charge rule could have some of the same impact of reshaping our immigration system to be more European and less Latin American,” Gelatt added.