- The Trump administration is proposing weighing immigrants’ income levels when determining if they should be allowed to enter the United States or receive a green card.
- The administration officially published a proposal for a new rule on the Federal Register on Wednesday, suggesting that immigrants be favoured if their households earn at least 250% of the federal poverty guidelines.
- Immigration advocates and experts fear that such a rule could dramatically reduce legal immigration to the US, citing data that show many immigrants earn household incomes below the 250% threshold.
The Trump administration has proposed a rule to weigh immigrants’ income levels when determining whether they’re likely to be a burden on American taxpayers, and if they should therefore be prevented from legally immigrating to the United States.
For a married couple without children, that means they would have to make at least $US41,150, and for a family of four, their household income would have to be $US62,750.
If enacted, the new rule would give immigration officers broad discretion to deny visas or green cards to immigrants who earn less than that.
Immigrants were already required to prove that the relative sponsoring them to come to the US earned incomes equal to or above 125% of the federal poverty guidelines.
But data from the Migration Policy Institute show that the proposed 250% threshold could dramatically reduce the amount of legal immigration into the US.
For example, 71% of all recently arrived immigrants from Mexico and Central America earned annual household incomes below the 250% threshold, as did 69% of Africans and 52% of Asians.
A separate analysis from the company Boundless Immigration found that the rule could crack down particularly hard on immigrants seeking green cards through marriage. Boundless estimated that 200,000 couples per year could face the choice of splitting up or leaving the US entirely.
“If it’s enacted as it is, it would actually be the most far-reaching thing that the Trump administration would do on immigration,” Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, told Business Insider.
He continued: “The regulation will likely be interpreted in a way that will end up denying as many people as possible – even beyond what’s written.”
‘Elitist and discriminatory’
The Center for American Progress decried the proposed rule as an “elitist and discriminatory wealth test” that could grant “unprecedented discretion” to the officers reviewing immigrants’ applications.
“More than any other policy adopted by the Trump administration to date, this proposed rule makes clear that despite all of the campaign trail rhetoric, this administration opposes immigration and immigrants, period,” Tom Jawetz, CAP’s vice president of immigration policy, said in a statement.
Though drafts of the new rule have been public for weeks, Wednesday marks the first time they were published to open for public comments. The administration now has 60 days to consider the input before finalising and implementing it.
The rule has already garnered significant public backlash, though most of it has focused on the provisions that would make it harder for immigrants to obtain visas or green cards if they use public benefits like Medicare, housing assistance, and food stamps.
The administration has defended its proposed rule by arguing that immigrants should demonstrate they’re not likely to become a “public charge,” meaning a burden on American taxpayers.
“DHS proposes to require all aliens seeking an extension of stay or change of status to demonstrate that they have not received, are not currently receiving, nor are likely to receive, public benefits,” the rule says.
According to the rule’s income provisions, an immigrant wouldn’t necessarily be denied on the basis of low income alone, and an immigrant with high income won’t necessarily be approved, but adjudicators would view those who earn incomes above the 250% threshold as having “strongly positive” factors in their favour.
The income provision does allow for some wiggle room – for instance, it says immigrants whose households earn incomes below 125% the federal poverty line can use “household assets and resources to demonstrate that he or she has financial support.”
But Anderson added that the immigration officers who review visa and green card applications may not necessarily be inclined to be generous with such applications.
Already, international students and immigration lawyers have been reporting that applications for H-1B visas – temporary work permits for skilled workers – are being denied or delayed far more often due to stricter adjudication.
Anderson said he fears the same thing will happen to family-sponsored immigrants under the new rule.
“There’s no reason to expect that after this would become a final regulation that leniency would be practiced. If anything, it would be the opposite,” Anderson said. “The administration attempted to reduce dramatically legal immigration through a legislative proposal. That failed, and so now they have turned to the regulatory process to attempt to achieve the same thing.”