00:50 - Source: CNN
New Trump rule could limit legal immigration

Editor’s Note: Ken Cuccinelli is the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.

CNN  — 

President Donald Trump has delivered once again on his promise to the American people to enforce long-standing immigration law. On Monday, the US Department of Homeland Security and US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a rule to better ensure that those seeking to come to, or stay in, the United States are self-sufficient.

Ken Cuccinelli

Throughout our history, self-sufficiency has been a core tenet of the American dream. Long-standing federal 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.

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.

My Italian grandfather, Dominic Luigi Cuccinelli, known as “Miggs” to his friends, sponsored two of his cousins, Mario and Silvio Cuccinello, to come to this country. Once they arrived in America, my grandfather wanted to make sure his cousins could find work. He appointed my father as their English teacher so they could learn the language in order to get a job.

My family worked together to ensure that Mario and Silvio could provide for their own needs. They never expected the government to do it for them. This entrepreneurial and enterprising spirit – shared by countless immigrants who have made the United States their home – is central to the American identity. And it is our responsibility to preserve it.

On Monday, we took action to promote these long-standing self-sufficiency ideals by finalizing the public charge inadmissibility regulation to ensure that the law is meaningfully enforced.

Congress passed two bipartisan bills – the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act – during the Clinton administration to prevent public benefit programs from being exploited and to reaffirm the long-standing public charge inadmissibility ground. Unfortunately, these laws have never been fully implemented. Today, that changes with the publication of the final public charge inadmissibility rule, which will be effective in 60 days.

“Public charge” has been part of US immigration law for more than 100 years as a ground of inadmissibility and deportation but has never been defined in the statute. Under guidance put in place in 1999, the term is defined as someone who is “primarily dependent” on government for subsistence. With this new rule, Homeland Security now defines public charge to mean an alien 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 benefits in one month counts as two months).

The Trump administration recognizes that while the United States is the most generous country in the world, American taxpayers already work very hard to provide for the needs of their own families. The resources needed to fund those coming into the country must not overburden Americans unnecessarily.

Under the new regulation, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency tasked with administering our nation’s lawful immigration system, will evaluate applications for those seeking to come here in a way that faithfully implements federal law and better ensures self-sufficiency. Our officers will generally consider an immigrant’s current and past receipt of designated public benefits while in the United States – such as public housing, food stamps, most Medicaid use or cash assistance – as a negative factor when examining applications.

The rule also requires officers to assess each applicant’s age, health, family status, assets, resources and financial status, and education and skills, as well as other factors set forth in the rule, in the totality of the circumstances. This means that no one factor alone will decide an applicant’s case. This will help Citizenship and Immigration Services objectively determine whether the applicant is likely at any time in the future to receive public benefits above the designated threshold. Simultaneously, this will help ensure that immigrants who come here have the tools and networks needed to succeed.

Unfortunately, some of the rhetoric surrounding this regulation has been riddled with inaccuracies. This regulation has no impact on humanitarian-based immigration programs for refugees and asylum-seekers, and it clarifies the exemption for trafficking victims and victims of domestic violence. Congress has long carved out exemptions for these categories, and our regulation adheres to the laws as written.

The regulation also excludes consideration of public benefits received by active duty members of the military and their spouses and children, and Medicaid benefits for emergency medical services.

For generations, immigrants have strengthened the foundation of our nation by making positive contributions to America. Through faithful execution of our nation’s long-standing laws, the public charge inadmissibility regulation better ensures that immigrants are able to support themselves as they seek opportunity here.