WASHINGTON (AP) - The Trump administration announced Monday that it is moving forward with one of its most aggressive steps yet to restrict legal immigration: Denying green cards to many migrants who use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers or other forms of public assistance.
Federal law already requires those seeking to become permanent residents or gain legal status to prove that they will not be a burden to the U.S. - a "public charge," in government speak -but the new rules detail a broader range of programs that could disqualify them.
It's part of a dramatic overhaul of the nation's immigration system that the administration has been working to put in place. While most attention has focused on President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, the new rules target people who entered the United States legally and are seeking permanent status.
Trump is trying to move the U.S. toward a system that focuses on immigrants' skills instead of emphasizing the reunification of families.
Under the new rules, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will now weigh whether applicants have received public assistance along with other factors such as education, income and health to determine whether to grant legal status.
The rules will take effect in mid-October. They don't apply to U.S. citizens, though immigrants related to the citizens may be subject to them.
Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the rule change will ensure that those who come to the country don't become a burden, though they pay taxes.
"We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient," Cuccinelli said.
Migrants make up a small percentage of those who get public benefits. In fact, many are ineligible for such benefits because of their immigration status.
On average, 544,000 people apply for green cards every year.