DHS excludes the vast majority of the more than 80 federal means-tested welfare programs from consideration when determining an applicant’s public charge risk. Just two federal programs are applicable: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
A recent analysis of Census Bureau data by the Center for Immigration Studies revealed that in 2010, 36 percent of immigrant-headed households were on at least one major welfare program — largely nutrition assistance and Medicaid (both of which are considered inadmissible in determining one’s dependency risk based on current public charge policies) — compared to 23 percent of native headed households.
As DHS elaborates in its letter, the restrictions on potential government dependents has been a staple of immigration law for over a century.
“As you may know, public charge has been part of U.S. immigration law for more than 100 years as a ground of inadmissibility and deportation,” Peacock, the DHS legislative affairs director, wrote to the senators.
But some conservatives and small-government activists are concerned that, when it comes to immigration, hasty reform efforts by both parties are trumping sound judgment. Each Republican response to the State of the Union address — the official one, from Florida Republican Marco Rubio, and tea party response from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — will be from legislators who, like the president, support some pathway to citizenship.
“For small government conservatives and libertarians like Rand Paul, it is essential to realize that until these problems are solved, any mass legalization will represent the biggest expansion of the welfare state that we’ve ever seen,” a GOP aide told TheDC.