Cuccinelli: People Applying For Green Card Must Be Self-Sufficient, Not In Need Of Public Assistance


CBSN: Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, spoke Monday about the Trump administration's new action to implement the "public charge" rule. It will require legal immigrants' sponsors to pay back the government for any benefits like food stamps or Medicare, which could make it harder for low-income immigrants to obtain green cards.

"Through the public charge rule, President Trump's administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America," Cuccinelli said.

KEN CUCCINELLI: I am Ken Cuccinelli, I am head of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and President Trump has once again delivered on his promise to the American people to enforce long-standing immigration law.

Today, USCIS, the agency I head as part of the Department of Homeland Security has issued a rule that encourages and ensures self-reliance and self-sufficiency for those seeking to come to or to stay in the United States. It will also help promote immigrant success in the United States as they seek opportunity here.

Throughout our history, self-reliance has been a core principle in America. The virtues of perseverance, hard work, self-sufficiency laid the foundation of our nation and have defined generations of immigrants seeking opportunity in the United States.

Our current law, which is generations old recognizes that some new arrivals to our country, need the help of their family and community. It requires some of those who seek to live and remain in the United States to have a sponsor who will be financially responsible for them. In the case of my family, my Italian grandfather played this role sponsoring two of his cousins, Mario (SP) and Silvio (SP), to come to America.

Once they arrived, my grandfather wanted to make sure his cousins spoke English certainly well enough to work and enlisted my father in that effort as well to make sure they could speak English well enough to work, and they did. My family worked together to ensure that they could provide for their own needs and they never expected the government to do it for them and this same hard-working spirit shared by countless immigrants who have made the U.S. their home is central to our American identity.

This spirit has also been rooted for over a century, well over a century in our immigration laws going back to the 1800s. Since 1996 the law has required foreign nationals to rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their families, sponsors, and private organizations in their communities to succeed. However, Congress has never defined the term public charge in the law, and that term hadn't been clearly defined by regulation. Well, that is what changes today with this rule.

Through the public charge rule, President Trump's administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America. Our rule generally prevents aliens who are likely to become a public charge from coming to the United States or remaining here and getting a green card. Public charge is now defined in a way that ensures the law is meaningfully enforced and that those who are subject to it are self-sufficient.

Under the rule, a public charge is now defined as an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period. For instance, receipt of two different benefits in one month counts as two months. A public charge inadmissibility determination is prospective and looks at whether an individual is likely at any point in the future to become a public charge as we define it in the regulation.

Public benefits are defined as federal, state, and local as well as tribal cash assistance for income maintenance and a small list of non-cash benefits. Some examples of the public benefits that are part of the role are general assistance, SSI, SNAP, most forms of Medicaid, and certain subsidized housing programs.

Significantly the rule does not consider many forms of government assistance that protect children and pregnant women's health as public benefits. Generally, this includes emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, national school lunch programs, WIC, CHIP, Medicaid received by people under the age of 21 or pregnant women as well as foster care and adoption subsidies; student and mortgage loans; energy assistance; food pantries; homeless shelters and head start.

It is important to note this rule will apply prospectively only to applications and petitions received starting on October 15 of this year. Once this rule is implemented and effective on October 15, USCIS career immigration services offer--officers what we call ISOs will generally consider an alien's current and past receipt of the designated public benefits while in the United States as a negative factor when examining applications. However, receipt of certain non-cash benefits received before October 15 will not be considered as a negative factor.

The underlying statute passed on a bipartisan basis also requires officers to assess at a minimum each applicant's age; health; family status; assets; resources and financial status; and their education and skills as well as other factors set forth in the rule in the totality of the circumstances. The totality of the circumstances means that officers will assess all of the evidence related to these factors, and no one factor alone will decide an applicant's case. Most of these factors are the ones Congress mandated us to review when considering immigration benefit applications.

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