Photo from Portland City Council live stream on December 3, 2018.
PORTLAND – In the course of one meeting, the Portland City Council inaugurated recently elected members and then unanimously went after President Trump’s position on immigrant welfare programs.
This followed news just days before that Portland had not pursued a grant for the Portland Police Department that the city had long received due to the city’s decisions to defy federal authorities on welfare programs for non-citizens likely making them ineligible for the grant.
At issue is how the federal government uses dependence on various welfare programs to determine eligibility for citizenship for immigrants to the United States.
The theory behind the change from the Trump administration is that immigrants who have relied government assistance are less likely to be able to take care of themselves independently as citizens.
A longstanding principle of U.S. Immigration law is that immigrants approved to become United States citizens should not be likely to become what is known as a “public charge.”
A “public charge” basically means that the individual would be likely to become dependent upon public assistance to survive. Currently, the benefits that can be used in most cases to assess whether an immigrant is likely to become a “public charge” include:
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance
State and Local public assistance programs broadly known as “General Assistance”
Programs that financially support people in long-term care, such as Medicaid.
The Trump administration, on October 10, 2018, filed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would align the definition of a “public charge” with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.
The administration cited Section 212(a)(4) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4), which provides that “an alien applicant for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status is inadmissible if he or she is likely at any time to become a public charge.”
Citing precedent that the United States has denied immigrants likely to become a “public charge” since 1882, the administration wants to add programs to the list of programs used to determine eligibility, including:
– SNAP (food stamps) and other nutrition assistance;
-Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program;
– Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance;
-Medicaid (with some exclusions);
-Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy;
-Any benefit provided for institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.
The Portland City Council also took issue with the income considerations in the law, saying that adding weight to the income levels would “hurt” immigrants earning below 125% of federal poverty levels, while those with “high income” of more than 250% of federal poverty would benefit.
The federal poverty line for a family of four in the United States is $25,100, meaning the Portland City Council’s position is that an immigrant family of four earning $62,750 per year is “high income” and using their income as a stronger consideration for citizenship would “hurt” immigrant families earning about $31,000 per year.