August 15, 2019

‘Public Charge’ Rule

On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule expanding the types of public assistance that make immigrants “public charges” and thus ineligible for green cards. DHS

The rule applies to the following programs: Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or formerly called “Food Stamps”), Section 8 Housing/Rental Assistance, Public Housing, Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions).

It does not apply to: Medicaid for the treatment of an emergency medical condition, Medicaid provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, School-based services or benefits, Medicaid benefits received by an alien under 21 years of age, Medicaid benefits received by a woman during pregnancy.

See past issues

From the Left

The left opposes the rule and sees it as an attempt to sharply curtail legal immigration.

“Never mind that immigrants are, for one thing, less likely to rely on welfare benefits than native-born Americans… consider for a moment how many Americans-- our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents--wouldn't be here today if regulations that used the straitened circumstances of new immigrants to measure their future earning potential had been in place.”
Jill Filipovic, CNN

“Aside from the strong moral arguments against letting poor people go hungry and sick, no rational government would want immigrant communities to, for example, forgo vaccinating their children in order to avoid a punitive reaction from immigration authorities; that has all the makings of a public health catastrophe. No rational government of a country with millions of immigrants would want millions of immigrant children to show up at school hungry each morning because their parents are afraid to apply for food stamps. No rational government would want hundreds of thousands of immigrant families to risk homelessness because of a temporary dip in their financial situation. Simply out of self-interest, a country such as the United States cannot afford to drive millions of legal immigrants entirely outside the social safety net.”
Sasha Abramsky, The Nation

“The Labor Department reports that seven million jobs are going unfilled even as the economy is slowing… Foreign-born workers include surgeons, computer engineers and financiers, and also those working in restaurant kitchens and driving cabs, doing the less desirable jobs at the lowest wages. But they contribute to the growth of the nation, and if some of them need help at some point with housing or food stamps, it’s a bargain in the long term. The economic return makes immigration a great investment for the nation. Which is why Mr. Trump’s public charge rule is bad for all Americans, not just those who strive to become one.”
Bill Saporito, New York Times

“[The rule] won’t attract greater numbers of better-heeled, success-bound applicants. But it will radically slash the total number of immigrants gaining legal admission. And it will deprive the U.S. economy of badly needed workers of the sort who have a long track record of upward mobility… The fact remains that less-well-heeled immigrants fill jobs for which there are insufficient native-born applicants; they perform well in those jobs and move up the income bracket. The administration’s new rules, while complex — they exempt pregnant women, asylum seekers, refugees, military service personnel and others — would drastically expand the pool of those who could be denied legal permanent residency based on poor predictors of future success.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“By signaling that the huddled masses are no longer welcome while others in the administration (particularly Jared Kushner) continue to advocate for the types of visas favored in Silicon Valley, Team Trump spins this as advocating not for ‘zero immigration,’ but for the ‘right kind of immigration’… [But] ‘the president has made it more difficult—and expensive—to hire high-skilled tech workers from other countries. The administration has throttled a program that encouraged entrepreneurs to come to the U.S. It’s also ending work permits for spouses of H-1B holders, who are often highly skilled professionals themselves.’ As a result of the administration’s efforts, there was a 10 percent decline in H-1Bs issued last year… It isn’t just about dissuading the tired and poor from coming, it’s about telling everyone to stay away.”
Alex Shephard, New Republic

“The long-run structure of the American welfare state, which is heavily focused on providing health care and retirement security to the elderly, requires a growing population and economy. Immigrants contribute to both goals… Going forward, demographers forecast that immigration — both the people it provides directly and the children that immigrants bear and raise — is the only reason America’s working-age population isn’t declining. This is doubly true when you consider that immigrants’ work in the household and child care sectors likely serves to increase native-born Americans’ childbearing as well… That hundreds of millions of people around the world would like to move to our shores — and that America has a long tradition of assimilating foreigners and a political mythos and civil culture that is conducive to doing so — is an enormous source of national strength. It’s time we started to see it that way.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

From the Right

The right is generally supportive of the rule.

The right is generally supportive of the rule.

“The first comprehensive immigration law at the federal level was the 1882 Immigration Act, which, among other things, excluded anyone who was ‘unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.’ That principle — the ‘public-charge doctrine,’ as it’s called — has been included in all subsequent immigration legislation, including the 1996 immigration and welfare-reform laws…

“The Clinton administration issued guidance that barred consideration of anything other than cash benefits for purposes of determining self-sufficiency. In other words, an immigrant using food stamps, Medicaid, free school lunch, and public housing — but not cash benefits such as TANF or SSI — was to be considered self-supporting… Immigrants shouldn’t just use welfare less than the native-born — ideally, they shouldn’t use it at all.”
Mark Krikorian, National Review

“This approach is rooted in the common sense notion that immigrants should support themselves, not burden taxpayers. If they can’t support themselves, they should leave… However, the rule isn’t draconian. It applies to ‘an alien who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.’ Receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months. Thus, immigrants in dire straits can seek assistance of the types addressed in the new rule. Their status will be in jeopardy only if they remain on it for a year or more, total, during a three-year period. And even if they do, they won’t automatically be denied green cards. Other factors will be considered in assessing the likelihood that an immigrant who has used welfare extensively will be granted status.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

Some, however, argue “there’s little evidence that immigrants are free-riding, and the DHS rule cedes too much discretion to bureaucrats over immigration decisions… most immigrants don’t qualify for most public benefits until they have lived in the country for at least five years. Thus DHS is directing immigration officers in the 837-page rule to project the likelihood that immigrants might someday become a ‘public charge’ based on arbitrary levels of income, employment, education and English proficiency…

“While supposedly trying to flesh out a vague statute, DHS is essentially rewriting immigration law on its own. And wouldn’t you know, the rule bears a striking resemblance to the ‘merit-based’ system that restrictionists in the White House have proposed but can’t get Congress to pass. If this sounds like Barack Obama ’s legislate-by-rule strategy on climate change, that’s because it is.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Congress passed a law decades ago establishing that potential immigrants likely to become a ‘public charge’ should not be permitted to enter the country. That makes some sense: A new resident should be able to add to, not detract from, the existing community’s economic resources. The problem is that Congress did not do its job and clearly establish when an aspiring immigrant meets or fails that test…

“The rule announced on Monday is 837 pages long. It needed to address all the thorny issues Congress avoided and makes a roomful of contentious value judgments along the way… This is a problem inherent in what conservative lawyers call ‘the administrative state.’ Congress passes laws that amount to mere statements of intent, avoiding the difficult choices that invite scrutiny and make enemies. It passes the buck to executive agencies, which then must make the value judgments and trade-offs via processes largely behind closed doors… Judicial oversight is no substitute for congressional abdication. Judges are not equipped to make the moral or technical judgments such laws in all but name require.”
Henry Olsen, Washington Post

This isn’t about race… the story of immigration to the United States has always been about people of every race, color and creed who come here to work and take advantage of American freedoms and opportunity — not a desire to take advantage of the welfare state… Even if you don’t share administration hard-liners’ desire to cut back legal immigration, ­emphasizing merit is a common-sense concern that is supported by most Americans. Our culture is rooted in self-sufficiency and individual initiative. Our immigration system should reflect our national creed.”
Jonathan S. Tobin, New York Post

“If President Obama had made such aggressive use of his executive powers, Republicans would have cried bloody murder… This is a complete abuse of the original understanding of the public charge law, whose purpose was to bar indigent or disabled folks… [The administration] is trying to accomplish through administrative means what [they] couldn't through legislative ones; namely, dramatically slashing legal immigration and transforming America's family-based immigration system into an extreme merit-based one.”
Shikha Dalmia, Reason

'Storm Area 51' turns into Alienstock Festival, may possibly include Limp Bizkit.
Fox News

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.