WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is considering a plan to weed out would-be immigrants who are likely to require public assistance, as well as to deport — when possible — immigrants already living in the U.S. who depend on taxpayer help, according to a draft executive order.
A second draft order under consideration calls for a substantial shake-up in the system through which the United States administers immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, with the aim of tightly controlling who enters the country and who can enter the workforce, and reducing the social services burden on taxpayers.
The drafts are circulating among administration officials, and it is unclear whether President Donald Trump has decided to move forward with them or when he might sign them if he does decide to put them in place. The White House would not confirm or deny their authenticity.
If enacted, the executive orders would appear to significantly restrict all types of immigration and foreign travel to the U.S., expanding bars on entry to the country that Trump ordered last week with his temporary ban on refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
In 2014, Minnesota spent more than $31 million in food or cash assistance and $137 million in medical assistance for residents who came as refugees, including some federal dollars — about 2 percent of its overall tab for such programs. State data shows refugees who rely on these programs tend to become self-sufficient as fast or faster than U.S. born beneficiaries.
While last week’s move focused on national security and preventing terrorism, the new draft orders would be focused on Trump’s campaign promises to protect American workers and to create jobs, immediately restricting the flow of immigrants and temporary laborers into the U.S. workforce. The administration has accused immigrants who end up receiving U.S. social services of eating up federal resources, and it has said that immigrant workers contribute to unemployment among Americans who were born in the United States.
“Our country’s immigration laws are designed to protect American taxpayers and promote immigrant self sufficiency. Yet households headed by aliens are much more likely than those headed by citizens to use Federal means-tested public benefits,” reads one draft order. It provides no evidence to support the claim that immigrant households are more likely to use welfare benefits.
The administration would be seeking to “deny admission to any alien who is likely to become a public charge” and to develop standards for “determining whether an alien is deportable … for having become a public charge within five years of entry” — receiving a certain amount of public assistance, including food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid.
The second order calls for “eliminating” the “jobs magnet” that is driving illegal immigration to the U.S. The order would rescind any work visa provisions for foreign nationals found not to be in “the national interest” or found to be in violation of U.S. immigration laws.
The order weighs how to make the country’s immigration program “more merit based,” calls for site visits at companies that employ foreign workers, and tasks the Department of Homeland Security with producing a report twice a year on the total number of foreign-born people — not just nonimmigrant visa holders — who are authorized to work in the United States.
It also instructs DHS and the State Department to submit a report on “the steps they are taking to combat the birth tourism phenomenon,” meaning instances in which noncitizens come to the U.S. to have children who in turn gain citizenship.
Together, the orders would aim to give U.S. citizens priority in the job market by preventing immigrants from taking jobs and by pushing some immigrants out of jobs.
“The unlawful employment of aliens has had a devastating impact on the wages and jobs of American workers, especially low-skilled, teenage, and African-American and Hispanic workers,” the draft order says.
Immigration advocates warned that if enacted, the executive orders could harm the U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants whose parents could be stripped of public assistance.
“He’s loaded his anti-immigrant Uzi and is firing off another round,” said Angela Maria Kelley, an immigration expert at the liberal Center for American Progress. “This time he’s aiming at U.S. citizen kids who have an undocumented parent, and … he could deport kids who have received reduced [cost] lunches in school.”
Long-standing U.S. law already makes it difficult for noncitizens to receive most forms of public assistance. For more than 100 years, the country has had a provision that allows federal officials to bar immigrants who seem likely to need public assistance.
Staff writer Mila Koumpilova contributed to this report.