Two top American organisations in the field of higher education have urged the Trump administration to immediately withdraw its proposed public charge policy on issuing green cards or legal permanent residence status to foreign nationals.

Under the proposed rule, if a foreign national is a beneficiary of a “public charge” -- which is a wide range of non-cash public benefits including use of food stamps, non-emergency Medicaid and public housing assistance -- it would be difficult for him to get a green card.

The Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, along with the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education, in a submission said the Department of Homeland Security “should immediately withdraw” its current proposal. Instead, it should rely on the 1999 policy guidance regarding public charge.

The two organisations urged the Trump Administration to dedicate its efforts to building on the successes of immigrant students and their families and to advancing policies that strengthen, rather than undermine, the ability of immigrants to access post-secondary pathways and support themselves and their families in the future.

“If we want our communities to thrive, everyone in those communities must be able to stay together and get the care, services and support they need to remain healthy and productive,” said the submission.

Noting that the proposed rule could affect changes in the US talent pipeline that would ultimately undermine America’s global competitiveness, the submission said the new public charge test would apply when individuals apply for a green card or seek admission to the US.

For non-immigrants, including F-1 students, J-1 exchange visitors, H-1B speciality workers, or their dependents, the public charge test would be applied when they apply to extend or adjust their non-immigrant status. This rule would create additional tests and barriers for these individuals.

Individuals would be subject to the public charge test each time they extend or change their status. For example, an international student with F-1 status applying for employment status would be subject to the public charge test.

“The increased uncertainty imposed by the new regulations is likely to deter even well-qualified and affluent international students from attempting to study in the US, as the ability to gain US workplace experience during an optional practical training period is often a key motivation for enrolling in an American college,” it said.

Drops in international enrolment would have broader ripple effects for US higher education institutions, as outlined below, the organisations warned.

The Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education said the proposed rule would discourage adult immigrant learners from participating in workforce training, certification programmes and adult education programmes that help improve their English language skills.

The rule would penalise low-income immigrants who receive or are likely to receive public benefits that enable them to enrol and succeed in college, and it would create a significant and lasting harm to the health and well-being of immigrant youngsters and their families, the organisations said.

Further, it would discourage immigrant youngsters and US-born young people with non-citizen parents from pursuing a college education and would increase the families’ financial instability. “The proposed rule would mark a fundamental change from our nation’s historic commitment to welcoming immigrants and reshape our legal immigration system,” the organisations said.

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