What’s really the issue?

In a move that seems at least to me to be common sense, President Trump plans to deny issuing “Green Cards” (permission for US residence) to legal immigrants who use, or seem likely to use, social programs such as Medicade, Food Stamps, or housing assistance once here.

But these are politically contentious times.

The Trump administration issued a rule that would disqualify legal immigrants from permanent residency if they use certain public-assistance programs and block prospective applicants deemed likely to need them.

The rule, issued by the Department of Homeland Security on Monday, is one of the most sweeping elements of the administration’s bid to create what officials described as a tighter, more discerning U.S. immigration system. Critics of the regulation said it could hurt poor immigrants and result in widespread confusion in migrant communities. Democratic state attorneys general are expected to challenge the rule in court.

The administration all but guaranteed fresh criticism from immigration groups by pushing ahead with the rule in the wake of a shooting in El Paso, Texas, that authorities said was motivated by anti-immigrant animus. Similar criticisms were expressed after Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out raids on food processing plants in Mississippi last week.

The use or potential use of a benefits program such as Medicaid, some types of housing assistance or food stamps could disqualify an applicant.

“Through the public charge rule, President Trump’s administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility,” Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said at the White House.

Mr. Cuccinelli said the new rule will go into effect in mid-October and won’t apply retroactively, so previous receipt of government benefits won’t negatively affect immigrants’ status. However, the rule would apply to people who are seeking to change their immigration status.

…Foreigners looking to come to the U.S. generally have to prove they have enough income to prevent them from becoming a “public charge.” Denials of visas on the grounds that the applicant could become a “public charge” have increased significantly during the Trump administration, from a net total of 164 in the 2016 fiscal year to 5,518 in fiscal 2018, government statistics show.

These are contentious times.

“This news is a cruel new step toward weaponizing programs that are intended to help people by making them, instead, a means of separating families and sending immigrants and communities of color one message: You are not welcome here,” said Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

She added: “It will have a dire humanitarian impact, forcing some families to forgo critical lifesaving health care and nutrition. The damage will be felt for decades to come.”

When I went to Australia all those years ago, the process for getting a visa was lengthy. In that process, I had to prove financial responsibility and solvency so in my wanderings I wouldn’t become a public charge.

“You’re welcome to visit us mate, just don’t require us to pay for it”.

Seems fair dinkum.

It’s really the same here, legally codified by the 104th Congress in 1995-1996.



(a) Public Assistance and Benefits.–
(1) In general.–Notwithstanding any other provision of
law, an ineligible alien (as defined in subsection (f)(2))
shall not be eligible to receive–
(A) any benefits under a public assistance program
(as defined in subsection (f)(3)), except–
(i) emergency medical services under title
XIX of the Social Security Act,
(ii) subject to paragraph (4), prenatal and
postpartum services under title XIX of the
Social Security Act,
(iii) short-term emergency disaster relief,
(iv) assistance or benefits under the
National School Lunch Act,
(v) assistance or benefits under the Child
Nutrition Act of 1966,
(vi) public health assistance for
immunizations and, if the Secretary of Health
and Human Services determines that it is
necessary to prevent the spread of a serious
communicable disease, for testing and treatment
for such diseases, and
(vii) such other service or assistance
(such as soup kitchens, crisis counseling,
intervention (including intervention for
domestic violence), and short-term shelter) as
the Attorney General specifies, in the Attorney
General’s sole and unreviewable discretion,
after consultation with the heads of
appropriate Federal agencies, if–
(I) such service or assistance is
delivered at the community level,
including through public or private
nonprofit agencies;
(II) such service or assistance is
necessary for the protection of life,
safety, or public health; and
(III) such service or assistance or
the amount or cost of such service or
assistance is not conditioned on the
recipient’s income or resources; or
(B) any grant, contract, loan, professional
license, or commercial license provided or funded by
any agency of the United States or any State or local
government entity, except, with respect to a
nonimmigrant authorized to work in the United States,
any professional or commercial license required to
engage in such work, if the nonimmigrant is otherwise
qualified for such license…


And California had sometime ago an initiative to deny people here illegally public benefits.

In 1910, because many special interests, such as the Southern Pacific Railroad, had such influence over the California Legislature, then-Governor Hiram Johnson ushered in a set of constitutional amendments to dilute that influence.

Among those changes was an initiative process that allowed the citizens, with a prerequisite number of signatures on a petition, to circumvent the legislature.

Over the years, this has been good and bad. My opinion, of course.

When the legislature was taxing homes to such a degree that long-time elderly owners were forced to sell their homes, Proposition 13 was ushered in. It was a political earthquake that was national news.

Monied-interests first gave us medical marijuana, now “recreational marijuana”. Maybe that is to the good; I’m not the final arbitrator.

But in 1994, Californians of all backgrounds passed Proposition 187, which forbade public assistance to immigrants who came here illegally. It passed overwhelmingly – 59% to 41% –  but then the losers did something all to common here.

They took it to court.

The same arguments against it were the same as arguments today.

The constitutionality of Proposition 187 was challenged by several lawsuits. On November 11, 1994, three days after the bill’s passage, Federal Judge W. Matthew Byrne issued a temporary restraining order against institution of the measure, which was filed by State Attorney General Dan Lungren. After Judge Mariana Pfaelzer issued a permanent injunction of Proposition 187 in December 1994, blocking all provisions except those dealing with higher education and false documents, multiple cases were consolidated and brought before the federal court. In November 1997, Pfaelzer found the law to be unconstitutional on the basis that it infringed on the federal government’s exclusive jurisdiction over matters relating to immigration. Pfaelzer also explained that Proposition 187’s effect on the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, the Congressional overhaul of the American welfare system, proved that the bill was a “scheme” to regulate immigration:

“California is powerless to enact its own legislative scheme to regulate immigration. It is likewise powerless to enact its own legislative scheme to regulate alien access to public benefits.”

Governor Wilson appealed the ruling, which brought the case to the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But in 1999, the newly elected Democratic Governor Gray Davis had the case brought before mediation.] His administration withdrew the appeal before the courts in July 1999, effectively killing the law.


It seemed so simple to me then as now: If someone has entered the the country illegally why should they then benefit from the taxpayers?

In this case, we are talking about people applying to come here – then using public assistance in some form to stay here.

Whatever happened to President Kennedy’s proclamation to “ask not what your country can do for you – but what you can do for your country?

Our immigration system is broken.

But we should allow people who wish to come here legally and have something positive to contribute, rather than be a drain. Or are there two competing visions for the future of America?

1 Comment

Filed under Politics

One response to “What’s really the issue?

  1. mcthag

    Has an Obama appointed judge blocked it yet?

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