tv Acting Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken... CSPAN August 13, 2019 2:13am-2:44am EDT
on the heart boot -- heartbeat of wounded knee. rick atkinson, author of "the british are coming and thomas alone and founder of the m.i.t. center for counterintelligence discusses his book. live saturday, august 31 at 10:00 a.m. eastern on book tv on c-span 2. >> the white house has announced a new rule on the use of public assistance by legal immigrants or those on temporary visas when they seek green cards. cuccinelli alley is the acting director of u.s. citizenship and immigration services. he briefed reporters at the white house. this is half an hour.
>> good morning. a pleasure to be here with you ken cuccinelli l.a., head of the u.s. citizenship and immigration services and president trump has once again delivered on his promise to the american people to enforce long-standing immigration law. uscis, the agency i had is part of the department of homeland security has issued a role that encourages and ensures self-reliance and self-sufficiency for those seeking to come to or to stay in the united states. it will also help promote immigrant success in the u.s. as they seek opportunity here. our history, self-reliance has been a core principle in america. the virtues of perseverance, hard work, self-sufficiency laid the foundation of our nation and have to find generations of immigrants seeking opportunity in the u.s. our current law which is generations old recognizes that
some new arrivals to our country needs the help of their family and community. it requires some of those who seek to live and remain in the united states to have a sponsor who will be financial rate -- financially responsible for them. in the case of my own family, my italian grandfather played this role, sponsoring two of his cousins to come to america. once they arrived, my grandfather wanted to make sure his cousin spoke english well enough to work and enlisted my father in that effort as well to make sure they could speak english well enough to work, and they did. my family worked together to ensure that they could provide for their own needs and they never expected the government to do it for them. in this same hard-working spirit, shared by countless immigrants who have made the u.s. their home, essential to -- is central to our american identity. the spirit has been rooted for over a century, well over a century in our immigration laws going back to the 1800's.
since 1996, the law has required foreign nationals to rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their families, sponsors, and private organizations in their communities to succeed. communities to succeed. however, congress has never defined the term public charge in the law, and that term has d not been clearly defined by regulation. that is what changes today with this rule. through the public charge rule, president trump's administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility. ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in america. our rule generally prevents aliens who are likely to become a public charge from coming to the united states or remaining here and getting a green card. public charge is now defined in
a way that ensures the law is meaningfully enforced and that those who are subject to it are self-sufficient. under the rule, a public charge is now defined as an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period. for instance, receipt of two different benefits in one month counts as two months. a public charge of inadmissibility is prospective and looks at whether an individual is likely at any point in the future to become a public charge as we define it in the regulation. public benefits are defined as federal, state, and local as well as tribal cash assistance for income maintenance and a small list of non-cash benefits.
some examples of the public benefits that are part of the rule are general assistance, ssi, snap, most forms of medicaid, and certain subsidized housing programs. significantly, the rule does not consider many forms of government assistance that protect children and pregnant women's health as public benefits. generally, this includes emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, national school lunch programs, wic, chip, medicaid received by people under the age of 21 or pregnant women, as well as foster care and adoption subsidies, student and mortgage loans, energy assistance, food pantries, homeless shelters, and head start. it is important to note this rule will apply prospectively only to applications and petitions received starting on october 15 of this year. once this rule is implemented
and effective on october 15, the uscis career immigration services officers, what we call iso's, will generally consider alien's current and past receipt of the designated public benefits while in the united states as a negative factor when examining applications. however, receipt of certain non-cash benefits received before october 15 will not be considered as a negative factor. the underlying statute, passed on a bipartisan basis, also requires officers to assess at a minimum each applicant's age, health, family status, assets, resources and financial status, and their education and skills, as well as other factors set forth in the rule in the totality of the circumstances. the totality of the circumstances means that
officers will assess all of the evidence related to these factors and no one factor alone will decide an applicant's case. most of these factors are the ones congress mandated us to review when considering immigration benefit applications. under this final rule, uscis will be able to objectively determine whether an applicant is likely at any time in the future to receive public benefits above the designated threshold. importantly, this final rule has no impact on humanitarian-based immigration programs for refugees and asylees. no impact on refugees or asylees. and it clarifies the exemption for trafficking victims and victims of domestic violence. congress has long carved out exemptions for these categories and our regulation adheres
strictly to the laws as written. the final rule also excludes from consideration, public benefits received by certain members of the u.s. armed forces and their spouses and children, as well as medicaid benefits for emergency medical services. lastly, under the final rule, uscis can permit an applicant seeking a green card from inside the united states as inadmissible only on the public charge ground to adjust their status to that of a legal permanent resident if they will post a public charge bond. so to conclude, i would just note again that generations of immigrants strengthen the foundation of our country and make positive contributions today. and we expect that to continue in the future. through faithful execution of our nation's long-standing laws, president trump's public charge inadmissibility rule better ensures that immigrants are able to successfully support
themselves as they seek opportunity here in america. throughout our history, americans and legal immigrants have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to pursue their dreams and the opportunity of this great nation. as president trump delivers on his promise to uphold the rule of law, this administration is promoting our shared history and encouraging the core values needed to make the american dream a reality. and with that, i am happy to take some questions. >> as you know, the primary focus of this president throughout his presidency has been on illegal immigration. the focus of what you just outlined on this proposed rule is on legal immigration. why did you change focus? mr. cuccinelli: this is not a change in focus, this rule goes back to executive orders from early in 2017. it has been a long, arduous effort. if you take a look at the fully
printed item, it will make war -- it will make "war and peace" seem relatively short. it's very thorough in the first attempt to put into operational effect all the different factors that congress itself has said were supposed to consider when deciding admissibility or inadmissibility. i would also note as the head of the agency responsible for naturalizing citizens, the step after legal permanent residency for many people, last year, we swore in more american citizens than the four years before and this year, expect to see similar numbers again. so, we have not at all laid off of, in the trump administration, processing properly legal immigration. i think what you have seen and heard is more discussion of illegal immigration, but we have been pressing ahead and this rule is an example of that. yes ma'am?
>> is this an admission from the administration that going through some sort of route to reform legal immigration by legislation is new? mr. cuccinelli: absolutely not. absolutely not. this is an implementation of the law passed by congress in 1996 that has not been given a meaningful effect. in 1999, some guidance was put in place with the presumption of a rule would follow but the rule never followed. so today, we're issuing a rule which, as i said, for the first time, really puts meaningful meat on the bones of the 1996 law passed in a bipartisan basis. this does not substitute, does not substitute for congressional action and other areas. for instance, i mentioned asylees are not covered by this rule. asylum is a major focus for us in my agency. and with the crisis at the border, we have been all but
begging congress to take action to close loopholes. some of them the same as the obama administration. that has not happened. so, this narrow area of our responsibility, we are relying on congressional direction and we put meat on the bones here today. yes, sir? >> i have two quick questions. first i was wondering if you could give us an update on what's happening with work permits for asylum-seekers? people whose cases have not been adjudicated yet. mr. cuccinelli: they are being processed in the ordinary course of business. >> is regulation coming to address this? mr. cuccinelli: we are working on other things within the agency right now but i'm not prepared to speak to where those are today. oh, you did say two. >> there were recently worked place immigration raids and one man was arrested when 400 illegal immigrants were arrested.
did that decision to grant a prison commutation come after they spoke to his lawyer? mr. cuccinelli: i am not really prepared to speak to that. i don't think so. i think what you saw ice do this week enforcing the law with seven operations across the state of mississippi, that investigation is ongoing. it's a growth for ice from the previous year. their enforcement actions are up and you can expect to see more of that as part of the message this administration will enforce the law. >> i also have two questions. the first is there is a concern that this will be enforced in a chilling effect. if a man has a citizen daughter who might be eligible for housing benefits, he might be afraid to apply for the benefits his daughter is due. how do you respond to that concern? mr. cuccinelli: that is an excellent question.
the receipt by a citizen in the household of public benefits will not affect the consideration for a particular alien as a general matter. so, the citizens in that household, again, and their receipt of public benefits do not affect consideration of an alien as a general matter. >> so you are not concerned about a chilling effect? mr. cuccinelli: if you look at the first page of this rule, you will see we start out by pointing out the things that are not covered. and we will have on the uscis website now and forever more, a clear listing of the two, so anyone who has any question about whether the receipt of particular benefit would be considered in a consideration, for instance if they apply for a green card, will easily be able to find that from our website as nd it's part of the message we are broadcasting and that's why i am talking to you and listed so many items we will not cover and i hope you all cover that as
well. i am new to this. this will be it for two. questions. . then we go to one. >> this has to do with the fact that the public charge rule has been an effect, there have been the words at the base of the statue of liberty that read give us were tired, your poor. you are implementing a public charge rule for the first time. is that sentiment still operative or should the words come down on the statue of liberty? mr. cuccinelli: i'm certainly not prepared to take anything down off the statue of liberty. we have a long history of being one of the most welcoming nations in the world on a lot of bases. whether you be an asylee or you come here to join your family or immigrating herself. -- yourself. this rule will cover for uscis almost 400,000 people per year whose applications to become legal permanent residents will include a meaningful analysis of
whether they are likely to become a public charge or not. i don't think by any means we are ready to take anything off the statue of liberty. >> can you elaborate a little bit on how big an issue this is costing u.s. taxpayers to have immigrants receiving benefits? also, there are millions of americans who accept public benefits, who have difficulty paying for health care on their own. so why is that different for those in the country legally struggling to have certain needs met here? mr. cuccinelli: the benefit to taxpayers as a long-term benefit. seeking to ensure that our immigration system is bringing people to join us as american citizens, as legal permanent residents first who can stand on their own two feet, who will not be reliant on the welfare system especially in the age of the modern welfare state which is so expensive and expensive.
-- expansive and expensive, frankly. that's been part of the american by you set for so long and it radical for us and for taxpayers going forward. that's part of the motivation for a rule like this. it is part of the benefit that goes all the way back 140 years. this rule, as i said earlier, simply puts meat on the bones of that consideration. >> is there any dollar amount that you can put for what it will cost the taxpayers? mr. cuccinelli: no because the benefit for tax payers is forward-looking. the costs that you will see in this rule are costs of implementation. they are not benefits of having more american citizens 30 years down the road who are more self-sufficient and less dependent on the welfare state. >> how much leeway will the case officers have? you say it will have a negative impact on their applications, but will the caseworker still be i know you, john a,
took this benefit but you will still be eligible for a green card? mr. cuccinelli: that's an excellent question. it is a totality of circumstances test. it means that the welfare benefits we have been talking here about are one factor. i listed the others that congress put in the statute, things like age, health. we basically rely for health on the legally required medical exam. but it is career immigration services officers that are going to be making these decisions and they will have to weigh all these factors together. the change under this rule is we are finally giving guidance that brings those factors together that has not been effectively done until today. >> how many refugees does the ministration plan to admit in 2020? and also, are you considering eliminating the refugee program altogether? mr. cuccinelli: i cannot imagine anyone would ever consider eliminating the refugee program
altogether. and congress would have to do that anyway. the number for next year needs to be decided by the end of september by the president. and i don't have any insight into what that number will be at this point in time. >> just real quickly, critics say this policy is unfairly targeting the lower income immigrants. how do you respond to that? mr. cuccinelli: well, we certainly expect people of any income to be able to disband -- to stand on their own 2 feet. if people are not able to be self-sufficient, then this negative factor will bear very heavily against them in a decision about whether they will be able to become a legal permanent resident. a poor person can be prepared to be self-sufficient. many have been through the history of this country. so, let's not look at that as the be-all and end-all, it's not the deciding factor, which is why we continue to use the totality of circumstances test. >> i wanted to circle back to the question of the chilling effect. you talked about the question of
whether a citizen and a family gets benefits and that would be used against somebody. so take the case that immigration advocates use a lot of a family that are in the country legally but have not yet gotten their green card that they are in need of services, whether it's medical or housing services to keep them off the streets, so to speak. and they are going to now be fearful of using the services to which they are legally entitled under the law because there is no way to determine, one, two, three years out from when they might apply for their green card how much they are likely to get a green card at the u services. there will be fear of a wave of people in this country who will decide not to use the services affirmatively that they are entitled to out of fear that it will ultimately fight
them. how do you counter that if you want them to use the services they are entitled, or is this really an effort to say this is a whole class of people who should not be using any services at all? mr. cuccinelli: in your description, you described a situation where government benefits were basically allowing this family to hang on. that they are not self-sufficient. and while this -- if we go forward a few years and look back at that situation because, remember, we essentially start counting october 15, with the exception of things that would've qualified under the 1999 guidance, which was fairly narrow. then that is what we are trying to avoid in the future. even under the circumstances you describe, if you're talking about an applicant who has the skills necessary to make their own way and to work their way
out of their situation, that's a case they make to the career caseworker. well, immigration services officer. but we do want to avoid looking to the future, a situation where people who are adjusting status do in the future become dependent on those public benefits. we are trying to avoid that situation. going forward. >> but as i understand it, public benefits are they are as a bridge. not designed for people to be on them forever whether you are in immigrant or not. they are they are there to help folks for a time. so are you saying that if you are in immigrant, your advice to them is don't take benefits because it is -- this is going to count against you? mr. cuccinelli: no, i was using your example where they need foundation,is their
as i took your description. i would say that the entire legal immigration system is designed by congress for the benefit of america, and what we are looking for here are people who are going to live with us either their whole lives or ultimately become citizens who can stand in their own two feet with the same sort of requirements that we have had in the past for well over a century. yes sir, in the middle. >> will the different benefits be weighted or treated differently? would medicare be used against them differently than food stamps? mr. cuccinelli: not the benefits, no. but the use of benefits over the 12 month period in 36 months would be a heavily negative factor. their are heavily weighted negative factors, negative factors, and positive factors
and heavily weighted positive factors. if you have private health insurance, that is a heavily weighted positive factor. so, those do all weigh in in the totality of circumstances. and obviously we call the more heavily weighted factors heavily because they matter more than others. but they go in both directions. >> we have heard outspoken critics of the administration on immigration policy before but increasingly we are hearing from u.s. catholic bishops. does it give you pause in carrying out these policies? mr. cuccinelli: it does not give me pause about implementing the laws already put in place. i use an italian background earlier, the other is irish. half i'm very familiar with what the catholic bishops have to say. they certainly are vociferous and i would say as a catholic, one thing i'm proud of is my church has been one of the best supporters of people in this
country before we had a welfare state. so, i don't see that changing and i don't see any conflict with enforcing the law as it's written. >> can you address the latino community? some in the latino community already feel they are targeted like those in mississippi. andou were here illegally, now this extends to legal immigration, why shouldn't the latino community feel targeted by this? mr. cuccinelli: first of all, this is a 140-year-old legal structure. we are dealing with the most recent iteration of it, but this is not new. this was the same question that might have been asked on my italian immigrants were coming, when my ancestors were coming through that 140 years. so we are not doing anything new here. we are simply making effective what congress had already put on the books.
so there is no reason for any particular group to feel like this is targeting them. >> will it apply to more latinos than any others? mr. cuccinelli: well, if we had this conversation 100 years ago, it would have applied to more italians. >> but we are having the conversation now. mr. cuccinelli: i think the divisiveness may be more rhetorical and i hope in your role, you will hope hear that with some of your reporting. i will take two more. sorry, orange tie. >> former vice president joe biden says the united states can easily take another two million refugees. he made these comments on the campaign trail. does the trump administration have a threshold, how many more immigrants, asylum refugees? mr. cuccinelli: there is no comprehensive number out there at all.
the only things with formal numbers is the earlier question about the annual refugee number, that happens every year. of course we are taking in, i want to say around one million-plus per year right now. and i cannot really speak to joe biden's personal opinion. but we don't have some target number that we are working with here, if that's your question. rule impact future applications? will there be a higher bar for u.s. citizens to prove that they can financially afford a family member? mr. cuccinelli: what you would normally have in the family circumstance is you would have an affidavit of support so they wouldn't necessarily fall into the category of being addressed by the public charge rule. because if they have an affidavit of support which has been scrutinized by uscis officers and it is believed that sponsor can in fact support
those identified at over 125% of the federal poverty guidelines, which is the standard, then that would be the end of the discussion as it relates to that sort of application. that is an excellent question because it addresses a huge piece of legal immigration in this country. thank you all very much. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> tuesday, presidential candidate pete buttigieg attends the iowa state fair and speaks to voters at the des moines register stage. live coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. eastern on c-span. sunday on q&a. new time staff photographer doug mills talks about photos covering president trump. >> he enjoys having us around. i've believe despite his
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