Trump Memo Attacks Immigrants and their Families by Seeking Repayment of Public Benefits

May 24th, 2019

Memorandum would require immigrants to use their sponsors’ income and resources to access public benefits

NEW YORK, NY – President Trump issued a memorandum Thursday that would require sponsors of immigrants to reimburse the government for public benefits used by the person they have sponsored. The memorandum would also require immigrants to use the resources and income of their sponsor when applying for public benefits.

In response, Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said:

"The Trump administration’s recent action is another covert ploy to threaten legal immigration and codify its racist anti-immigrant agenda.  This executive order is designed specifically to foment fear and discourage people from sponsoring their family members or getting the life-sustaining health care, food, and housing services they need. This is a cruel attempt to deny essential benefits to people who are entitled to them. We will not stand idly while this administration continues its attack on immigrants. We affirm the right of immigrant families to continue to access benefits in New York State and remind our community members that this change has not gone into effect.”


Trump’s memorandum instructs government agencies to enforce provisions of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (“Welfare reform”) that holds sponsors accountable for the cost of the public benefits their sponsored family members use. If this “sponsor liability” goes into effect, sponsors would have to pay back each dollar of means-tested benefits to the government.

In addition to enforcing the reimbursement section of the 1996 law, Trump’s memorandum would require immigrants to declare their sponsor’s income and resources when applying for public benefits, a process known as “sponsor deeming.” As a result, immigrants currently using benefits could be disqualified despite having very low or no income. Currently, agencies in New York State are not enforcing sponsor liability or sponsor deeming. Federal government agencies named in Trump’s memorandum have 90 days to update their guidance and 180 days to submit a report back to the President. It is still unclear how the directive would be implemented.