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President Biden Moves to Reverse Trump-Era Green Card Limits

President Biden Moves to Reverse Trump-Era Green Card Limits

Homeland Security

The Biden administration announced plans on Thursday to reverse a rule that denies green cards to applicants who receive certain government benefits, one of former Donald Trump’s signature moves to limit legal immigration. The administration stopped applying the more expansive Trump-era limits in March, making the announcement more of a formality to insulate it from legal challenges. Its publication in the Federal Register in the coming days will trigger a 60-day period for public comment, followed by a final version.

While the proposal has no immediate impact, it is an important step toward undoing Trump’s version of the “public charge” rule, as President Joe Biden promised during his campaign.

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE – JANUARY 16: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an announcement January 16, 2021 at the Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware. President-elect Joe Biden has announced key members of his incoming White House science team. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a retreat with Republican lawmakers at Camp David in Thurmont, Maryland, January 6, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)


Trump made his intentions clear during his first year in office, but the rule didn’t take until 2020 due largely to legal challenges and procedural requirements. Still, Homeland Security said Thursday that it had “chilling effects” by causing people to quit or decline to enroll for benefits they were eligible to receive, fearing their applications to become legal permanent residents could be derailed. The government denied green cards to only three people under Trump’s rule, whose applications were later reopened and approved, Homeland Security said in its 291-page proposal, demonstrating its limited reach.

The Biden administration’s revisions largely restore rules that had been in place since 1999, which, among other things, do not consider the use of non-cash benefits like food stamps, health services, and transportation vouchers when determining green-card eligibility. The move was cheered by immigration advocates, many of whom have had a strained relationship with the White House over sweeping rules that prohibit many migrants from seeking asylum at the border.

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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a statement saying that the Trump rule was “not consistent with our nation’s values,” adding that under the proposed rule, “we will return to the historical understanding of the term ‘public charge’ and individuals will not be penalized for choosing to access the health benefits and other supplemental government services available to them,” Mayorkas said.

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