WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump took another step Thursday to crack down on legal immigration, instructing agencies to enforce a 23-year-old law that requires sponsors of green card holders to reimburse the government for welfare benefits.
Trump approved a memorandum Thursday to enforce a pair of provisions signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the White House said. The move comes as Trump has sought to overhaul legal immigration despite congressional resistance.
“To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient,” Trump said in an announcement of the plan.
Critics have said that such moves unfairly punish low-income immigrants, who sometimes need assistance to get started in the U.S. But the White House counters that too many immigrants take advantage of U.S. generosity, pointing out that 58% of all households headed by a non-citizen use at least one welfare program.
Immigration advocates Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, and Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, denounced Trump’s “brutal, reckless, dangerous, inhumane agenda.”
“Trump will do anything to send immigrant families the message that if you’re not white and wealthy, you’re not welcome — or even safe — here,” the two advocates, who are also co-chairs of the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign, said in a statement. “And he doesn’t care that children and entire families will be harmed in the process.”
Administration officials announced last year they were enforcing a law requiring immigrants to “show they can support themselves financially.” More than 6 in 10 green cards are granted based on family ties, Department of Homeland Security data show.