Is America slamming the door shut on the very kinds of people who helped to make this nation what it is today—a nation of immigrants, a nation made stronger by their hard work, their sacrifices, their belief in the American Dream, their willingness to risk everything and throw their whole lives into the prospect of a better future for themselves and their descendants?
Yet another nail in the coffin of the Statue of Liberty, at least for the time being, is a new Trump administration rule noting, among other things, that the Department of Homeland Security is revising its interpretation of “public charge” to “incorporate consideration” of an individual’s “reliance on or receipt of non-cash benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, Medicaid; and housing vouchers and other housing subsidies.” DHS said the intent is “to better ensure that aliens subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground are self-sufficient, i.e., do not depend on public resources to meet their needs, but rather rely on their own capabilities, as well as the resources of family members, sponsors, and private organizations.” With a few exceptions, this appears to mean that a person need not apply to immigrate to the United States if he or she ever needs any help. Poverty will be a disqualifier. And on a practical level, this new rule is likely to create problems in communities with public health and other issues as would-be immigrants become too afraid to ask for help when they really need it.
I think most of us would agree that our ancestors who came here from other nations weren’t slackers. Far from it. If they took help, it was because they needed it, and they got back on their feet as soon as possible. The real poverty would be an America without their contributions.
Astonishingly, during a media interview, when asked about whether admitting only people who are already self-sufficient and have never needed help flies in the face of those words on that statue, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” He made clear that those who avail themselves of any form of public aid are considered a “burden on the government.” He said that only those who can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” would be welcome. Emma Lazarus must be rolling over in her grave.
Perhaps it’s time to put that plaque on the Statue of Liberty aside in a safe place, and replace it with a garish sign that says, “Keep your tired and poor. Give me your well-off and self-sufficient.”
Lawsuits have been filed. Stay tuned.
- Cuccinelli remarks
- USCIS announcement
- Federal Register final rule at 84 Fed. Reg. 41292 (Aug. 14, 2019)
News reports, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/california-advocacy-groups-file-lawsuit-against-trump-public-charge-rule-n1043351, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-08-16/california-immigration-lawsuit-trump-public-charge