By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The Donald Trump administration announced Monday new rules that make it harder for immigrants using public programs including food stamps, Medicaid and housing vouchers, to attain U.S. residency.
The rules, which will take effect in two months, broaden the "public charge" federal law that requires green card seekers to demonstrate they will not be a burden on the U.S. The use of benefits under a wider selection of programs will not be considered "heavily negatively" in applications, acting Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli told reporters.
"Through the public charge rule President Trump's administration is reinforcing the ideal of self-sufficiently and personal responsibility," he said. "Our rule generally prevents aliens who are likely to become a public charge from coming to the United States or remaining here and getting a green card."
Immigration advocates issued stern criticism of the administration's immigration rules, and vowed legal challenges.
“This news is a cruel new step toward weaponizing programs that are intended to help people by making them, instead, a means of separating families and sending immigrants and communities of color one message: you are not welcome here," said Marielena Hincapie, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.
"The time has come to take our fight to the courts, and we will do so shortly."
The measures are just the latest step taken by Trump to tighten immigration to the U.S. -- both legal and illegal.
Trump has sought to shift the U.S. immigration system to a more skills-focused model wherein personal merit takes greater precedent than other factors such as familial relations, and last week immigration officers carried out the largest single-state immigration raids in U.S. history.