PHILADELPHIA -- Having tried several times to cut the food stamp program, President Donald Trump has hit on a plan that could accomplish that, while curtailing another object of his ire: immigration.
A new rule put into the Federal Register on Monday could limit the number of legal immigrants living in or entering the United States by penalizing those who depend on food stamps, among other public assistance. Low-income immigrants would be denied green cards (permanent legal status) if it's determined they will be relying on the federal safety net.
In howls of protest more vitriolic than usual, advocates and experts across America and the region have attacked the new rule as a sure way to increase the number of people suffering from hunger in the U.S., many of them children who are already citizens.
"It is simply cruel to deny food and other life-saving aid to immigrant children who are in the country legally," said Joel Berg, CEO of the New York-based nonprofit Hunger Free America. "It is equally cruel to deny food to their parents, who are legally in America and often performing the nation's hardest, lowest-paid work.
Kate Leone, chief government relations officer for Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States, said flatly that the rule "will increase hunger in this country," and "create fear and confusion."
And the Food Research & Action Center, the Washington, D.C.-based anti-hunger lobby, called the rule "deeply flawed" and "mean-spirited."
Defending the policy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said that it will promote "long-standing ideals," such as accepting immigrants who exhibit "self-reliance, industriousness, and perseverance."
On Tuesday, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties filed what the federal government said is the first lawsuit challenging the new rule. The suit argues that the change will worsen the health and well-being of residents. It would also result in a "chilling effect" causing immigrants to remove themselves from federal public assistance programs, potentially shifting costs to local government.