DHS: New rule may close door on new regional immigrants

USCIS: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Tiyan is pictured in May 2018. USCIS issued a rule regarding new immigrants on uscis.gov. Post file photo

A final rule announced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Tuesday would make it tougher for immigrants to enter or remain in the United States if they're likely to rely on food stamps and other public benefits.

The rule goes into effect on Oct. 15.

The rule states immigrants might be ineligible to enter or remain in the United States if they are likely to become a "public charge" or a burden to federal government services.

USCIS allows for an immigrant to post a minimum bond at $8,100 if there's reason to believe an immigrant seeking entry might become a public charge.

The rule says “public charge” means an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period. The rule further defines the term “public benefit” to include any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or food stamps, most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs. 

The new rule does not apply to immigrants who are already U.S. citizens, USCIS stated.

"This rule also makes certain nonimmigrant aliens in the United States – who have received designated public benefits above the designated threshold – ineligible for change of status and extension of stay if they received the benefits after obtaining the nonimmigrant status they seek to extend or from which they seek to change," USCIS stated.

Applicants for permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship could be affected.

USCIS acting Director Ken Cuccinelli, said in a press release, “Throughout our history, self-sufficiency has been a core tenet of the American dream. Self-reliance, industriousness, and perseverance laid the foundation of our nation and have defined generations of hardworking immigrants seeking opportunity in the United States ever since."

It wasn't clear if the final rule would also apply to citizens from the freely associated states who are automatically allowed entry into the United States without going through a travel visa screening process.