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Presidential Memo Targets Enforcement of Immigrant Benefit Rules

President Trump issued a memorandum calling for increased enforcement of existing laws related to individuals sponsoring applicants for immigration status.

Under current law, most individuals applying to enter the country on a visa or applying for a green card must submit an affidavit of support from a sponsor residing in the United States. The affidavit of support is required to demonstrate that the applicant is not likely to become a public charge. The sponsor’s financial resources are taken into account when considering whether an immigrant is eligible for public benefits including Medicaid. Sponsors are also responsible for reimbursing the government for the cost of any benefits the sponsored individual receives during a period of ineligibility.

The May 23 memo claims these requirements are not adequately enforced. The administration calls for agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, to issue guidance and develop appropriate procedures to enforce requirements within 90 days of the issuance of the memo.

The memo follows a trend of policies that might discourage immigrant families from enrolling in public benefits. America’s Essential Hospitals in December commented on the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed rule to expand the definition of a public charge to include noncash benefits, such as Medicaid, expressing concern that it would deter vulnerable people from seeking health care. The Urban Institute recently released a report finding many immigrant families avoided using public benefit programs in 2018 due to a “chilling effect” of the proposed public charge regulation.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at or 202.585.0127 with questions.


About the Author

Rachel Schwartz is a former policy associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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