GOP Senator Would Bar Poor Immigrants From Earning Citizenship

As the Senate considers a bipartisan immigration reform bill, Sen. Jeff Sessions has offered a series of amendments that create more obstacles on immigrants’ path to provisional and permanent legal status. One of Sessions’ amendments would require that undocumented immigrants have a minimum average income and consistent employment over the 10 years of provisional status before they can apply for permanent legal status.

Sessions sets such a high income bar that 70 percent of his home state or more than 3.3 million Alabamans would not meet his requirements.

Under the current bill, individuals must be regularly employed throughout the 10-year period or demonstrate that their average income was not less than 125 percent of the federal poverty line. That translates into $29,440 in household income for a family of four.

But Sessions wants to mandate that immigrants maintain an average income or resources above 400 percent of the poverty line, which means a person must on average earn more than $46,000 or $94,000 for a family of four.


Nationwide, more than 206 million of the U.S. population fall within 400 percent of the poverty line, while mean personal income is $39,660.

Sessions also offered a second amendment that forbids legalized immigrants from receiving federal assistance like the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) and temporary assistance for needy families (TANF).