Nearly two-thirds of all immigrant-headed households in the United States rely on at least one form of public welfare to meet their most basic needs. That enormous burden on American taxpayers fully justifies U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) proposed changes to the public charge rule, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) asserted in a public comment submitted to the agency today.

“The interest of the American people is served when immigrants selected for admission into the United States can demonstrate they are capable of providing for themselves and their dependents. Unfortunately, this is not the case,” said Dan Stein, president of FAIR.

“Immigrant self-sufficiency no longer appears to be a primary goal of U.S. immigration policy. However, it should be,” FAIR noted in its formal comments on the proposed rule change. “In 1996 Congress referred to ‘a compelling government interest to enact new rules for eligibility and sponsorship agreements in order to assure that aliens be self-reliant in accordance with national immigration policy.’” Shortly thereafter, under intense pressure from mass immigration advocacy groups at the time, the Clinton administration redefined ‘public charge’ to allow both legal and illegal aliens to collect most types of welfare benefits without penalty. Subsequently, the Obama administration further broadened the Clinton-era guidelines, making even more benefits available to foreigners who never paid into our social safety net.

“The rule changes proposed by USCIS would correct expensive and politically-driven loopholes, and uphold the clearly expressed intent of Congress that immigrants to the United States be self-reliant. That means putting back in place screening criteria that identifies and selects prospective immigrants who will be less likely to depend on government programs and become public charges,” Stein said.

Adopting a more realistic definition of being a public charge would also provide new impetus to move away from a family chain migration policy and adopt a merit-based one. “Until Congress acts to implement a legal immigration system that evaluates applicants based on their likelihood to succeed and be self-sufficient, rule changes on the part of the executive branch provide the best option to protect the interests of the American people,” said Stein.

“FAIR supports the administration’s common sense, long overdue changes to public charge rules. While the changes could go further, particularly by including additional welfare programs used by immigrants, the proposed rule is still an enormous improvement over the status quo and a win for the American taxpayer,” FAIR concluded in its comments to USCIS.

Matthew Tragesser writes for the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform.

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