March 30, 2018 – In its latest escalation of cruel attacks on immigrants, the Trump administration is reportedly mulling increased penalties — even threatening avenues to residency — against immigrants using ordinary benefits. Under the draft proposal from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), immigrants whose families have received almost any form of public benefit, including food, healthcare, or tax deductions offered to all other working poor in this nation  would be barred from U.S. citizenship or have their application or renewal for a green card denied.

This draft proposal follows an alarming trend in this administration’s efforts to turn millions of previously legally present immigrants with DACA or Temporary Protected Status into out of status undocumented immigrants, and to block the U.S. citizenship applications of eligible lawful permanent residents.

“This draft proposal from DHS is another heartless attack to limit lawful pathways to immigration and citizenship in this country,” said Nicole Melaku, a National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) board member and the executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC). “The Trump administration is building a ‘Second Wall’ that turns lawfully present immigrants into undocumented immigrants, and that prevents working poor immigrants from climbing the ladder towards the American Dream. These actions are an attack on core American values of fairness, inclusion, and opportunity.”

The proposal is but the latest in a recent wave of attacks against institutions and services meant to strengthen our immigration structures and traditions.  Earlier this week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the addition of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census, which will have the effect of discouraging participation not only by undocumented immigrants, but also their mixed-status family members.

This coincides with an exploding backlog of more than 734,000 pending naturalization applications at USCIS, representing 734,000 lawful permanent residents stuck in limbo, prevented from becoming voting U.S. citizens.

“NPNA and our members will continue to fight back against these efforts and fight for an inclusive American democracy through advocacy, public education, and support of eligible lawful permanent residents to Naturalize NOW,” Melaku said.

The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) is a national multiethnic, multiracial partnership representing the collective power and resources of the country’s 37 largest regional immigrant and refugee rights organizations in 31 states.