Immigrants’ sponsors to be on hook for ‘every dollar’ if new arrivals end up on dole, new Trump appointee warns

Sponsors of legal immigrants to the United States received word Friday that they’ll be on the hook “for every dollar” if those immigrants end up receiving welfare funds or other public support instead of earning a living and paying taxes.

The message came Ken Cuccinelli, a former Virginia state attorney general who last week became acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) following his appointment by President Trump.

“If the sponsored immigrant receives any federal means-tested public benefits, the sponsor will be expected to reimburse the benefits-granting agency for every dollar of benefits received by the immigrant,” Cuccinelli wrote in a USCIS memo.

“If the sponsored immigrant receives any federal means-tested public benefits, the sponsor will be expected to reimburse the benefits-granting agency for every dollar of benefits received by the immigrant.”

— Ken Cuccinelli, acting director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

'Enforceable contract'

In addition, the same message instructed agents who work for USCIS to remind applicants and sponsors that “the Affidavit of Support is a legal and enforceable contract between the sponsor and the federal government.”

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Ken Cuccinelli, a former Virginia state attorney general, is now acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (Associated Press)

Ken Cuccinelli, a former Virginia state attorney general, is now acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (Associated Press)

According to Cuccinelli, all federal agencies dealing with immigration issues will be working to update or initiate procedures and regulations to make sure that immigrants who are ineligible for public benefits do not receive them, in accordance with a May 23 directive from the president.

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“The President has made it a priority to ensure that every individual who seeks to come to the United States is self-sufficient, temporarily or permanently,” Cuccinelli wrote. “The principle of self-sufficiency has been enshrined in our immigration laws since the 1800s, and we as an agency must ensure that immigrants who become part of this great country abide by this principle.”

“The President has made it a priority to ensure that every individual who seeks to come to the United States is self-sufficient, temporarily or permanently.”

— Ken Cuccinelli, acting director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Cuccinelli took over at USCIS last Monday, coming to the job with a reputation as a hardliner on immigration issues. For example, he has been an advocate for denying citizenship to American-born children of parents living in the U.S. illegally and for limiting in-state tuition at public universities to citizens or legal residents.

He replaced Lee Francis Cissna, who reportedly had lost President Trump’s confidence.

Critical of McConnell, others in GOP

But Trump likely named Cuccinelli an acting director because his chances of winning Senate confirmation were said to be slim, Roll Call reported.

The outspoken Cuccinelli, as president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee that has opposed many incumbent Republicans, has been critical of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others in the GOP.

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“Mitch McConnell has filled the Senate with people like Lisa Murkowski, John McCain, Shelley Moore Capito, Lamar Alexander and Dean Heller who all promised the voters they would repeal Obamacare, but when the time came to do it they refused,” Cuccinelli wrote in an August 2017 fundraising memo, according to Roll Call. “Instead of admitting his mistake, McConnell is blaming the President for having ‘excessive expectations’ even though he was the one who set those expectations with years of empty promises!”

Trump’s appointment of Cuccinelli came as the president is dealing with a growing crisis as tens of thousands of Central American migrants cross the U.S.-Mexico border each month, overwhelming the system, and he has struggled to deliver on his signature issue of reduced immigration and tighter border security.

Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly and the Associated Press contributed to this report.