Immigrants who seek opportunity should comply with longstanding American values
President Trump continues to deliver on his promise to the American people to enforce our Nation’s immigration laws. After several resounding judicial victories, on Feb. 24, the Department of Homeland Security, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, will finally begin implementing the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule.
Not only does this final rule enforce an Act of Congress, but it also reaffirms core American values, such as hard work, self-sufficiency, and perseverance. These values are the foundation of our great Nation and have defined Americans since our country’s birth.
Generations of American families, including my own, can trace their lineage back to the brave souls who came to America looking for opportunity. They fully understood the importance of self-sufficiency and made a life for themselves on their own.
There was never an assumption or expectation that the government would support them. The entrepreneurial spirit — shared by countless immigrants who have made the United States their home — is central to the American identity. It is our responsibility to preserve it.
Immigrants who seek opportunity in our country should do so in accordance with the longstanding American value and basic principle of United States immigration law and policy dating back to 1882, namely self-sufficiency. It is common sense — and in the best interests of our Nation — to ensure those coming to the United States can rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their families, sponsors, and private organizations.
Under the final rule, a “public charge” is defined as an alien who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in total, in any 36-month period.
Going forward, USCIS officers will now consider an applicant’s use of certain public benefits while in the United States — such as public housing, food stamps, certain Medicaid for adults or cash assistance — when determining whether someone is eligible to adjust status to that of a lawful permanent resident.
It is important to clarify that under the public charge rule, no single factor will decide an applicant’s application. In making public charge determinations, the public charge rule requires our officers to assess each applicant’s age, health, family status, assets, resources and financial status, education, and skills, as well as other factors set forth in the rule, in the totality of their circumstances.
These are factors put in place by Congress on a broad and bipartisan basis back in 1996 — with the support of a majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives, including now-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — and signed into law by President Clinton.
The public charge rule does not apply to humanitarian-based immigration programs for refugees and asylees, or generally to trafficking victims and victims of domestic violence.
It also excludes consideration of public benefits received by certain children of United States citizens who will acquire citizenship upon admission to the United States or shortly thereafter, and by individuals who are enlisted in or active-duty members of the military at the time of receipt (and their spouses and children), as well as Medicaid benefits received by aliens under 21 and pregnant women, Medicaid for emergency medical and certain education-related services.
Immigrants have come to America seeking new opportunities for centuries and, in return, have strengthened this Nation by starting businesses, serving in our military, and passing on a love for this country to their children. Through faithful execution of our nation’s laws, the public charge rule promotes our core values and better ensures those seeking a life here are able to support themselves and will continue to seek opportunity in America and, through their contributions, keep our Nation strong.
Ken Cuccinelli is the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security.
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