Expanding its anti-immigration policies, the Trump Administration is planning to change policy so it is easier to deport legal immigrants.

Donald Trump and senior advisors are already combining anti-immigrant positions and the 2020 re-election campaign to stigmatize undocumented immigrants and those hoping to come into the US. However, Trump’s senior White House advisor Stephen Miller has long harbored the ambition to remove about 25% of legal immigrants from the US.

Last September it was reported that the Administration would remove “green cards” — the permits for permanent residency in the US — from immigrants who receive public benefits. A draft regulation from the Justice Department now confirms that intention.

See also TrumpWatch, Day 611: Trump Administration — No Green Cards for Immigrants on Public Aid

Currently, legal permanent residents can be deported if they are declared to be a “public charge” — for example, not declaring a chronic health condition on entry into the US — or if they are primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. However, the step is rarely used.

The new draft regulation greatly expands the declaration to include immigrants who have used public benefits — such as cash welfare, food stamps, housing aid, or Medicaid — within five years of admission to the US.

Immigration lawyers said they have rarely if ever heard of someone being deported for using public benefits.

It is unclear how far the regulation has advanced through the Department. Before taking effect, it would be subject to public comment and then have to be approved by Attorney General William Barr.

Last autumn the Department Homeland Security tried to use the “public charge” regulation to apply the public assistance provision to about 26 million immigrants. The effort was blunted by overwhelming opposition among more than 266,000 comments, such as those that noted the risk to older immigrants with disabilities.

Justice Department spokesman Alexei Woltornist said the agency “does not comment on or confirm draft regulations”.

“Cruel Attempt to Close the Door”

Even though the new regulations may be at an early stage, Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, challenged their effects:

This leaked proposal is yet another cruel attempt to close the door on new Americans, and radically change our legal immigration system by creating a wealth test and doing an end-run around Congress. We are prepared to take Trump to court to defend our communities’ freedom to thrive.

Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, noted, “The best way to strengthen our country is to strengthen the families who live in it. One fourth of children in the U.S. today have at least one foreign-born parent, so our future depends on the success of immigrant families.”