Exclusive: Trump’s draft plan to punish legal immigrants for sending US-born kids to Head Start

Exclusive: Trump’s draft plan to punish legal immigrants for sending US-born kids to Head Start

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Originally published by VOX

The Trump administration is working on new rules that would allow the government to keep immigrants from settling in the US, or even keep them from extending their stays, if their families had used a broad swath of local, state, or federal social services to which they’re legally entitled — even enrolling their US-born children in Head Start or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

A draft of the new regulation, posted first by Vox, can be found at the bottom of this article or on DocumentCloud. (If the DocumentCloud link does not work for you, here is a direct link to the PDF.) Reuters originally reported on the existence of the draft regulation Thursday.

The rule wouldn’t make it illegal for immigrants to use public services that are open to everyone regardless of immigration status, or that are available to their US-born children. But it would make it possible for the government to deny their applications for a new type of visa, or a green card, if they’d used those services. In other words, it could force them to choose between taking advantage of available social services, and their family’s future ability to stay in the United States permanently.

If approved and finalized, the regulation would vastly expand the federal government’s power to bar an immigrant from entering the United States, obtaining a new visa, or becoming a lawful permanent resident (green-card holder) by labeling the immigrant a likely “public charge.”

Right now, the government can only consider use of cash benefits, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, in “public charge” determinations. The Trump administration wants to give officials the power to look at use of other benefits as well, including:

  • some “educational benefits,” including use of Head Start for children
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • use of any subsidies, or purchase of subsidized insurance, under the Affordable Care Act
  • food stamps
  • Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) assistance
  • Housing benefits, like Section 8
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • transit vouchers

Using any of these for more than six months in the last two years (before applying for a different visa or a green card) would be considered a “heavily weighted” strike against the immigrant. (That strike could be canceled out if an immigrant was making more than 250 percent of the federal poverty level when applying for the new visa or green card — which, for a family of 4 in 2017, was $60,750.)

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