Evangelical group calls Trump admin’s new immigration rule ‘counter-effective,’ ‘short-sighted’

Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli speaks about immigration policy at the White House during a briefing August 12, 2019 in Washington, D.C. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

An evangelical humanitarian organization says the Trump administration’s newly announced public charge rule “short-sighted” and “counter-effective.”

On Monday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli announced that a new public charge rule would be implemented to prevent legal immigrants from getting green cards if they rely on food stamps, Medicaid, or other taxpayer-funded services. It is scheduled to take effect on Oct. 15.

Cuccinelli said that while federal law has required foreign-born residents to rely on their own resources since 1996, Congress had never defined what the term public charge meant.

“Under the rule, a public charge in now defined as an individual 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 different benefits in one month counts as two months,” he said.

“Some examples of the public benefits that are part of the rule are general assistance, SSI, SNAP, most forms of Medicaid, and certain subsidized housing programs.”

The new rule will exempt from its definition of public benefits types of government assistance aimed at protecting children and the health of pregnant women, Cuccinelli added.  

Matthew Soerens, U.S. director of Church Mobilization at the nonprofit organization World Relief, emailed a statement to The Christian Post on Tuesday critiquing the new rule.

“… this proposal restricts legal immigration based on past receipt of a public benefit by the immigrant, even in cases where that individual received the benefit lawfully, and it further restricts legal immigration even in cases where an individual has not received a public benefit based on a bureaucrat’s suspicion, based on factors such as having a low income,” Soerens said.

“While decisions will be made based on a ‘totality of the circumstances’ standard that leaves a lot of discretion of individual officers, and thus makes it hard to predict precisely how many family reunification visas will be denied that would previously have been approved, there are reasons to think that far fewer immigrant visas will be approved under this new rule than in the past.”

Soerens believes the new rule “will likely lead more people to consider immigrating illegally as their only recourse to be reunited to family” because it “will restrict many individuals seeking to follow our legal processes to immigrate legally through sponsorship from a close relative.”

“I believe that’s short-sighted and counter-effective toward the administration’s appropriate goal to restrict illegal immigration,” Soerens added.

The Christian charity group Bread for the World also denounced the new rule, arguing that it will harm the health of millions of legal residents in the U.S.

“The rule is already having a ‘chilling effect’ on children and families and it hasn’t even gone into effect. Legal residents, including permanent residents, are foregoing SNAP, Medicaid, and programs not covered by the rule such as WIC because they fear they will be deported,” said Jane Adams, senior domestic policy analyst at Bread for the World.

“The Bible is clear that God wants us to be generous and welcoming to all people, specifically immigrants (Matthew 25:40-45). We oppose the administration’s decision and urge them to immediately withdraw this rule.”

Cuccinelli said Monday that the public charge rule “encourages and ensures self-reliance and self-sufficiency for those seeking to come to, or to stay in, the United States.

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