The US immigration authorities have proposed a change to the Green Card application consideration process. Currently, if an immigrant claims cash public benefits while not yet a permanent resident of the US, this fact can count negatively towards the Green Card application. The proposed change in the rules will make it detrimental for immigrants to claim any non-cash public benefits as well.
This approach in the US is actually similar to that already followed by some other countries such as the UK. In the United Kingdom, migrants from outside the European Economic Area are prohibited from accessing public funds until they become permanent residents.
Predictably, migrant rights groups are dismayed by this hardening of the United States’ immigration position, expressing the fear that the proposed new rules might scare migrants away from accessing much needed help, and could therefore have greater negative social consequences in the long term.
You can read Global News reporting of the story here.
USA: President Donald Trump joined forced on Wednesday with Senators David Perdue of Georgia and Tim Cotton of Arkansas to promote a new bill, the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, touting a skills-based points system for obtaining US Green Cards. Under the current system, Green Cards can be obtained via family sponsorship, job sponsorship, the Diversity Lottery, and on compassionate humanitarian grounds. Most are obtained via family ties.
The proposed new law would make process changes, awarding points for the fulfillment of certain requirements and determining eligibility based on the points awarded. Consequently:
- Highly skilled people would be prioritized
- Extended family members would be de-prioritized
- Spouses and children would still be supported
- The Green Card lottery (diversity program) would be curtailed or scrapped
- English -speakers would be favored
- Refugees admitted would be capped at 50,000 per year
- Overall numbers of green cards issued would be expected to drop by 41% in the first year, and 50% over a 10 year period.
This is just the initial announcement of a proposal which the President and Senators Perdue and Cotton support. It is not law, nor will it be unless and until it is introduced to the Senate and the House of Reps, passed both houses with the required majorities and is signed into law. The road ahead is predicted to be rocky for the bill, especially because a very similar bill was introduced earlier this year, but found little or no support. Senator Lindsey Graham has already voiced his opposition to the bill, saying that it would devastate the economy in his constituency, as the agriculture and tourism industries of South Carolina rely heavily on immigrant workers.
It is worth noting that Australia, Canada and the UK already have points-based immigration systems to various extents and these have arguably worked well for those countries. However, none of them rely solely on the points-based structure and have aspects of their immigration programs e.g. family applications determined by other means.