Immigration

Trump Administration Looking to Limit Legal Immigration Based on Income, Public Benefits

Texas is among the states that would be most affected by the policy, which would encourage immigration officials to factor in a new income threshold when they’re deciding to deny or grant green cards and visas

A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office.
A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office.

A new report shows immigrants from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean would be most affected by rules being considered by the Trump administration to restrict family-based immigration. 

According to leaked drafts of the policy, the administration is looking to set income limits, so green cards would be harder to obtain for less-affluent legal immigrants, usually coming to the country through a family connection.

Immigrants earning less than 250 percent above the federal poverty line ($62,000/year for a family of four) would have their income count against them when immigration officials are deciding whether or not to grant them a visa. 

New data from the Washington D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute (MPI) show the people most likely to meet income requirements come from Europe, Canada and Oceania (Australia), while immigrants from Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean are most likely not to meet the income threshold. 

“It might change the face of future immigrants coming to the state (Texas),” said Jeanne Batalova, an MPI senior analyst, “but also, it raises the question, what will happen to people who could be eligible, but cannot clear those new standards.”

Because the considered rules could have large impacts on the race and ethnicities of future legal immigrants, some experts say it’s a way of bringing back the Immigration Act of 1924, which set quotas on how many people could immigrate from each country to maintain the racial and ethnic makeup of the United States at the time. 

Number and Share of Recently Arrived, Legally Present Noncitizens in Families with Annual Incomes below 250 Percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) by Region of Birth, United States and Texas, 2014-16

Note: Recently arrived legally present noncitizens are persons with green cards or legal nonimmigrant visas who came to the United States in the five years prior to the survey.
Source: Migration Policy Institute (MPI) analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s pooled 2014-16 American Community Survey and 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) with MPI legal-status assignments.

Recently Arrived, Legally Present Noncitizens: Total and in Families with Annual Incomes below 250 Percent of the Federal Poverty Line, United States and Texas, 2014-16

Source: Migration Policy Institute (MPI) analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s pooled 2014-16 American Community Survey and 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) with MPI legal-status assignments.

The policy stands to have a greater impact on Texas because of the size and countries of origin of the immigrant community in the state. 

“Proportionately speaking, Texas is likely to be affected more than other states in the United States,” said Batalova.

The policy would also greatly expand (from 3 percent to 47 percent) the share of legal immigrants that would be deemed a “public charge” based on their use, or their dependent’s use, of public benefits.

A public charge determination weighs heavily against a legally present non citizen when an immigration official is deciding to grant or deny them a green card or visa. The new public charge rules would apply to nearly half of all lawfully present immigrants, including some 1.3 million Texans.

Proposed public charge rules would also have major chilling effects on immigrant use of benefits like Medicaid and food stamps. 

“It potentially creates an enormous chilling effect,” said Mark Greenberg, senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, “which could leave families with children fearful that receipt of publicly funded health care assistance is going to hurt their ability to get green cards or to get another family member admitted to the country.”

Share