Poll: Half of voters say legal immigrants who use public assistance should be eligible for green cards

More than half of respondents in a new Hill-HarrisX poll said legal immigrants who receive public assistance such as food stamps or Medicaid should be eligible for green cards.

The survey, which was released on Tuesday, found 53 percent of registered voters believe immigrants who have used government aid should be able to qualify for a green card.

Twenty-seven percent of those polled said immigrants shouldn't be eligible for a green card if they use public assistance. Another 19 percent of voters said they were unsure about the issue.

Support for green cards among immigrants using public assistance was stronger among Democrats, at 69 percent. Thirty-eight percent of Republicans said immigrants using public assistance should be able to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis. 

When broken down by gender, 60 percent of men said immigrants on government aid should be able to apply for green cards, compared to 48 percent of women.

Certain minority groups were also more inclined to favor green card eligibility among immigrants who use public aid.

Sixty-seven percent of African American voters said immigrants should be eligible for a green card even if they use public assistance, while 63 percent of Hispanics agreed.

Among those surveyed who make more $75,000 a year, 59 percent said they support immigrants on public assistance getting a green card. Just less than half – 49 percent – of those who make less than $75,000 said the same. 

The survey comes in light of the Trump administration’s new “public charge” rule, which expands the government's ability to deny entry or green cards to legal immigrants based on their use of public services like food stamps and Medicaid.

The controversial new rule, which is set to go in effect in October, already faces multiple court challenges and has drawn widespread Democratic backlash.

While the Trump administration has portrayed the rule as a way to promote independence among immigrations, opponents argue that such a move would discourage immigrants from seeking vital services such as medical assistance or food for fear of violating the policy.

The Hill-HarrisX poll was conducted online among 1,001 registered voters with a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

—Tess Bonn