Trump moves to crack down on 'welfare tourism'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE is moving to require those who sponsor legal immigrants to the U.S. to pay for any public benefits they receive in a move meant to crack down on "welfare tourism," according to a Thursday presidential memorandum.

A senior administration official said in a statement to Hill.TV that the executive action would enforce existing laws passed by Congress, that they claimed were "effectively never used."

"This executive action will dramatically curb ‘welfare tourism’ and protect U.S. benefits for U.S. families," the official said.

"It will also ensure that immigrant sponsors cannot continue the practice of bringing in large numbers of welfare-dependent immigrants: because they will be financially liable. Congress passed these laws — but they were effectively never used. Now they will be."

Provisions with the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 state that those who sponsor immigrants to the U.S. are legally liable for any public benefits the immigrant they sponsor goes on to consume. Trump's memorandum will direct agencies to create specific guidance for state agencies with an aim to implement the policy's enforcement by December 2019. 

The policy will require states to provide the names of immigrants drawing benefits to federal agencies before a bill is then issued to the sponsor. If the sponsor does not pay the bill, a notice will be sent to the Treasury Department and the amount will be withheld from a sponsor's tax return, the official said.

The move is reportedly meant to discourage would-be sponsors from signing onto any potential immigrant who will apply for public benefits. The memorandum also will direct agencies to factor in a sponsor's income when an immigrant applies for public benefits, a move which will likely reduce the number of immigrants able to qualify for benefits. 

A White House fact sheet noted that "78 percent of households headed by a non-citizen with no more than a high school education use at least one welfare program," and that "58 percent of all households headed by a non-citizen use at least one welfare program." 

Trump's memorandum is part of a broader push within the administration to orient the U.S. toward a more hardline immigration stance.

The president released an immigration plan last week that would move toward a “merit-based” immigration system, which would prioritize skilled highly skilled workers over migrants with family members living here.

Saagar Enjeti