Trump to enforce Clinton-era law: Sponsors to be held responsible for non-citizens on welfare

WASHINGTON - The Trump Administration on Thursday announced it will begin "fully enforcing" a law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 that holds individuals sponsoring non-citizens responsible for any welfare benefits received by the non-citizen. 

"President Trump is enforcing existing restrictions on welfare use by non-citizens in order to promote self-sufficiency," the White House announced Thursday.

"To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient," said President Donald Trump.

On Thursday, Trump signed a memorandum to ensure agencies fully enforce restrictions in place under current law on the use of income-based welfare programs by undocumented immigrants.

The President is directing agencies to issue guidance to ensure any income-based welfare payments are recovered from the person who sponsored the undocumented immigrant. "Cases where the sponsor fails to pay the lawfully required reimbursements will be referred for collection procedures in accordance with the law," the White House said. 

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, signed into law by Clinton in 1996, mandates undocumented immigrants "should not depend on public resources to meet their needs."

At the time, Clinton also signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. That legislation requires the sponsor's financial resources to be considered when determining whether a non-citizen is eligible for income-based welfare. 

"Rampant welfare abuse by non-citizens is straining the social safety net and jeopardizing benefits needed by the most vulnerable American citizens," the White House said.

According to the Trump Administration: 

  • 78 percent of households headed by a non-citizen with no more than a high school education use at least one welfare program
  • 58 percent of all households headed by a non-citizen use at least one welfare program
  • 50 percent of all non-citizen headed households include at least one person who receives health insurance through Medicaid.

The Trump Administration said Thursday's move is the latest step to implement President Trump new merit-based immigration initiative. "Under our current immigration system, two-thirds of immigrants entering the United States do so based on family ties rather than on skill or merit," the White House said, "A merit-based immigration system would further ensure that immigrants make positive contributions to the United States."

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