The Trump administration on Monday, Feb. 24, officially implemented the “public charge” rule that restricts green cards for immigrants who have used a wide range of nonemergency welfare programs.

“President [Donald] Trump continues to deliver on his promise to the American people to enforce our nation’s immigration laws. After several judicial victories, [Department of Homeland Security] DHS will finally begin implementing the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule,” Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of the DHS, said in a statement Monday.

“This rule enforces long-standing law requiring aliens to be self-sufficient, reaffirming the American ideals of hard work, perseverance, and determination. It also offers clarity and expectations to aliens considering a life in the United States and will help protect our public benefit programs,” Cuccinelli added. “We’re happy to open our doors to people from all over the world but we expect them to stand on their own two feet.”

The Trump administration had introduced the rule in August 2019 and scheduled it to go into effect in October but it was met with an onslaught of court challenges and fierce opposition of immigration rights groups and Democrats on Capitol Hill. After two key victories in the nation’s highest court, the rule was put into effect across the country on Monday.

Under the public charge rule, green cards can be denied to applicants based on their past use of government-funded benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid, housing, and cash assistance for at least 12 months out of a three-year period.

The new rule does not apply to humanitarian immigrants such as refugees, asylum-seekers, and human trafficking victims. Applications filed before Monday will be judged under the old rules.

Critics of the new policy weighed in, calling the new rule racist and elitist.

Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have promised to reverse the policy, along with a number of other Trump immigration policies, with Sander claiming it is “designed to demonize and hurt those who are the most vulnerable of all.”

“Millions of children could lose their health care coverage because of the Trump administration’s cruel public charge rule. Families shouldn’t be forced to choose between staying in our country or ensuring their kids get health care. As president, I’ll roll back this policy,” Warren tweeted

But the White House argued that the changes are part of the administration efforts to protect American taxpayers.

“This final rule will protect hardworking American taxpayers, safeguard welfare programs for truly needy Americans, reduce the federal deficit, and re-establish the fundamental legal principle that newcomers to our society should be financially self-reliant and not dependent on the largess of United States taxpayers,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Friday, reported Fox News.

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