The Department of Homeland Security has announced plans to review and update regulations to address the issue of immigrants who may become a “public charge” after they enter the United States.

That is a rule that allows officials to exclude “foreign nationals” who are expected to become dependent on public benefits, at the expense of taxpayers.

That has been a practice for generations already, but the government now is considering a new definition that would expand “the term public charge.”

Andrew Arthur, writing at the Center for Immigration Studies, says not only do the definitions need to be updated, the result would be more protections for taxpayers as well as help for the disadvantage – those with fewer skills who compete for lower-income jobs.

The CIS explained that the Washington Post had obtained some information on what the changes might entail.

That report said, “Current rules penalize immigrants who receive cash welfare payments, considering them a ‘public charge.’ But the proposed changes from the Department of Homeland Security would broaden the government’s definition of benefits to include the widely used earned-income tax credit as well as health insurance subsidies and other ‘non-cash public benefits.’

“The changes would apply to those seeking immigration visas or legal permanent residency, such as a foreigner with an expiring work visa. While they would make little difference to those living here illegally, it could affect immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program … if they attempt to file for full legal residency.”

Arthur’s analysis said the idea of excluding those who likely would not be able to hold a job, generate enough income to support themselves, and thus be dependent on hard-working taxpayers, dates back to the late 1800s.

In 1903 Congress made it a deportable offense for someone to move into that status within two years after entry.

“The United States has always been a country both of opportunity and of immigrants, but there is an expectation that foreign nationals who come to this country ‘pull their own weight,’ that is, be able to support themselves,” he wrote.

Why? Because tens of millions around the globe would like to move to the U.S. for its justice, education, health care and rule of law.

And they, the report said, are “from some of the poorest countries in the world.”

“Given the large number of individuals interested in immigrating to the United States, and this country’s long history of expecting self-sufficiency from its immigrants, the United States can, and should, choose those potential immigrants who are unlikely to be a burden on their (future) fellow citizens,” the CIS said.

The weakness is that “public charge” is so poorly defined, and the fact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services still publicizes online that “receiving public benefits does not automatically make an individual a public charge.”

It specifically cites “public cash assistance,” such as Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid for those in long-term care.

“Respectfully,” the CIS analysis stated, “it is difficult to conceive what the phrase ‘public charge’ means if it did not include all aliens who receive ‘cash assistance’ from the government. If the taxpayers are paying for any part of your subsistence, you would logically be a ‘public charge’.”

The significant appears because, as the Washington Post reported, out of 41.5 million immigrations living in the U.S., 3.7 percent get “cash benefits,” while 22.7 percent get “noncash benefits.”

Arthur pointed out when the details of the plans for change were discovered, the National Immigration Law Center immediately lashed out, with, “The Trump administration is opening a new front in its assault on family-based immigration by making it harder for immigrants who might use essential public services to come to the United States and settle here permanently.”

Arthur noted that the center’s most interesting point was that immigrants often are in competition with U.S. citizens at the lower end of the pay scale.

He wrote, “The receipt of public benefits for oneself or one’s dependents is a logical marker for limited employment opportunities. Although not a hard and fast rule, most Americans would prefer to support themselves and their families instead of relying on the government to do so. Logically, therefore, those American workers with whom immigrants receiving public benefits would be in competition are the least advantaged in our society, generally those who have received fewer educational and/or employment opportunities than society as a whole.”

So, the analysis concluded that rejecting newcomers who would depend on tax money to live would save the public money, but the move also would help those who hunt for work at the lower end of the pay scales.


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