Stricter rules to prevent immigrants from landing as “public charges” on government assistance could upgrade the financial profile of new arrivals, and lead to more deportations of those who don’t make the cut.
“Demonstrating income or financial assets over 250 percent of the federal poverty line (about $62,000 for a family of four) would be a heavily weighted positive factor for immigrants seeking permanent residency in the U.S.,” the Migration Policy Institute states in a review of yet-to-be-released guidelines.
Under current rules, only about 3 percent of immigrants are at risk of being classified as public charges. MPI estimates that the new rules could result in nearly half of the U.S. noncitizen population falling into that category.
MPI said the Trump administration may be contemplating changing the standard for when receipt of public benefits can be used as grounds for deportation of legally present noncitizens.
Asian immigrants would be especially affected by the proposed higher income thresholds, MPI said.
“Because the share of all U.S. immigrants coming from Asia has risen in recent years, Asians would end up being the most disadvantaged group numerically, with more than 1 million recent legal noncitizens in families with incomes under 250 percent of poverty,” MPI reported.
Emigrants from just two Asian nations — India and Japan — had large percentages of family incomes at or above 250 percent poverty: India at 75 percent and Japan at 69 percent.
By contrast, only 36.1 percent of China/Hong Kong emigrants would have cleared the income threshold. Same for Vietnamese. Just 43.4 percent of arrivals from Korea would have made the cut. Filipinos fared better at 61.2 percent.
Overall, 52 percent of recent immigrants from Asia fell below the 250 percent benchmark.
Still, Asians topped their counterparts from Africa and Mexico/Central America. Sixty-nine percent of African emigrants had incomes under the 250 standard, as did 71 percent of Mexican/Central Americans.
While noting that the “250 percent” threshold is not be the only qualifier in the public-charge overhaul, MPI said government adjudicators would have “enormous discretion to deny admission or green cards” to individuals with incomes or financial assets below that line.
“It is not possible to know in advance how the Trump administration would exercise its discretion, (but) it is clear that the approach taken in the draft rule would provide extraordinary latitude that could readily be used both to sharply alter legal immigration flows and to tilt the criteria for admissions and green cards away from family-based admissions and individuals unable to meet the 250 percent threshold,” MPI concluded.