Regulation for the Rich

immigrant rights are worker rights 2006

The new “public charge” regulation targets immigrant families who have received a wide range of public benefits, including Medicaid and Section 8 housing assistance and food stamps (SNAP). But that’s only the beginning: it also directs immigration authorities to weigh income, education level, age, and health or disability status of prospective immigrants and their family members here. Permanent legal residents or U.S. citizens who want to bring their parents or spouses here need to show that those parents or spouses will not become public charges. Income, savings and even credit scores of both immigrants and family members will count.

The regulation won’t go into effect until after it is officially published for comment (likely to happen this week) and after a 60 day comment period, and then time to consider the comments and make revisions in the 447-page regulation, and then publication of the revised regulation. That makes its effective date months from now, but it is already having an impact. Fear pushes immigrants to abandon benefits to which they, and their U.S. citizen children, are entitled:

“Arline Cruz, one of the staff members at Make the Road, told me. “People started cancelling their benefits. We keep telling members, ‘Don’t stop getting the services you need to survive. This is still only a proposal!’ ” Even the most recent proposed guidelines are still months from going into effect, she said, and they will not be imposed retroactively. Arelii understood the advice, but she was reluctant to take any chances. “They tell me it won’t affect my son’s application,” she said. “But I don’t want to risk anything. No one knows anything for sure.”

“Uncertainty about the details of the government’s proposal is making it difficult for advocates to counsel community members, many of whom have already received conflicting advice from immigration lawyers, media reports, and anguished neighbors.”

Another collateral effect of the regulation is its impact on long-term care for the elderly in the United States. An op/ed in Forbes predicts that the regulation will “make it effectively impossible for immigrants to come to the US to work as home health aides or as staff at nursing homes or assisted living facilities.” Why?

“Because at least one million aides (one of every four) is an immigrant, the complex rules Trump proposed over the weekend would dry up a major source of personal care for older adults or younger people with disabilities. At a time when the pool of available family caregivers is shrinking dramatically, the long-term result could be a caregiving catastrophe.

“The Trump proposal exposes the existential paradox of our caregiving system. We pay the people who care for our aging parents and other disabled relatives so little that they must rely on public supports such as Food Stamps and Medicaid to survive. Yet the cost of long-term care is so high that most Americans already can’t afford it.”

What’s wrong with limiting immigration to people with higher education and income? First, the education level of immigrants has already risen dramatically over the past 20 years, with 30 percent of immigrants holding bachelor’s degrees and higher now, compared to 31.6 percent of people born in the United States.

Second, immigrant energy fuels economic success:

“The classic example is Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate who came to the U.S. from Scotland desperately poor at age 12, and ended up establishing the company that eventually became U.S. Steel. His is not the only such story. Andrew Grove, one of the founders of semiconductor giant Intel, started out poor after fleeing from Hungary. These stories are exceptional, but the pattern is a common one — study after study finds that immigrants have strong levels of intergenerational mobility.”

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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