In another wave of pointed attacks, the Trump administration has proposed a radical change in immigration policy that would have widespread negative consequences for people with disabilities and their families. Under current law, most immigrants seeking a green card, which grants them authorization to live and work permanently in the United States, must pass an archaic public-charge test. An individual can be designated a public charge if they are determined likely to become primarily dependent on long-term cash assistance from programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or institutionalized for long-term care paid for with Medicaid.
Even though the current public-charge test discriminates against immigrants with disabilities, relatively few disabled immigrants with family support in the United States fail it. But President Donald Trump is preparing to drastically expand the public-charge test, including by explicitly targeting disabled immigrants. The proposed changes harken back to a period when the federal government used the test to deny permanent residency to individuals it deemed “degenerates,” such as LGBTQ immigrants, and other groups seen as “morally deficient,” including unmarried mothers.