EL PASO, Texas -- The landscape of American immigration changes dramatically this week with the controversial "public charge rule" officially going into effect.
Immigration officials say that the new rule allows the government more authority to deny green cards to legal immigrants who use or are deemed likely to use Medicaid or similar programs.
Immigrant rights officials and attorneys have said that they do expect this policy to limit immigrant visas moving forward.
That policy came down from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, bringing with it new heightened income-based requirements for green cards and certain visas.
With more scrutiny for applicants based on health, age, credit score, education and other factors, some attorneys fear it’ll scare off legal immigrants, causing them to go underground and wait for the next election, hoping that a different president might rescind the policy.
Critics of the policy say it puts the most amount of scrutiny on applicants who are 16 and under as well as those 65 and over due to the presumption that they’re less able to be self sufficient.
“This used to be such an easy and simple process," said El Paso immigration attorney Diego Vazquez. "If there was no criminal record or other issues like that then it wasn't a problem. Now it is suddenly much more complicated for us and the people we represent."
In defending the policy, acting Deputy Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli said, "the rule enforces longstanding law requiring aliens to be self-sufficient, reaffirming the American ideals of hard work and determination.”
Supporters of the rule expect it to force off many immigrants from public welfare programs including Supplemental Security Income and cash assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.