All of our people all over the country-except the pure-blooded Indians-are immigrants or descendants of immigrants . . .
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1944 campaign speech
It is almost unbelievable—except it isn’t. It could make immigration even less appealing—it may. It affects those undeterred by the assorted methods of ill-treatment that the Trump administration has used on immigrants at the border. It’s the newest immigration policy change proposed by Trumpsters. It’s not like separating children at the border from their parents, and then losing track of them, the way they did until the courts said they couldn’t. It’s a whole new set of rules.
The proposed new rules apply to those who have successfully navigated the stormy seas of immigration at the border, and are now legal residents of the United States without, however, the assurance that they can remain permanently. The Department of Homeland Security has created a new way in which to get them out. It introduces into the lives of the applicants something called: “heavily weighted negative factors.” Here is how “heavily weighted negative factors” affect immigrants seeking permanent residency status.
If a family succeeds in its asylum request made at the border and is granted residency in the United States, it immediately will be subject to the provisions of the new rule. It is not a simple rule. It is 447 pages long. It has the catchy name of “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.” A comprehensive report on the new rule by Michael Shear and Emily Baumgaertner can be found in the New York Times.
Many of the newly arrived residents may not read the entire text, but here is what they need to know. The rule creates a new world for immigrants who had hoped to be here permanently when their plea for asylum was granted. It is a world in which the Trump administration has decided to force them to prove their determination to become permanent residents. They can do that by foregoing the benefits of living in this country to which we once thought all residents were entitled.
One of the foregone benefits is accepting assistance with obtaining food when a family lacks the resources to adequately feed its members. Another is accepting housing assistance, if a family is in need of shelter and cannot afford to pay for it. Another is accepting medical care if an immigrant or a family requires it, but cannot afford to pay for it and lacks insurance. Immigrants living here who decline to accept those benefits are smiled on by the Trumpsters and they will more readily grant them permanent residency status.
Under the proposed regulations, those who apply for green cards or permanent residency status who appear to be well nourished, and whose children appear to be in good health, will immediately become suspect and, in all likelihood, face additional scrutiny before being given green cards or granted permanent residency status. That is because the examiner may conclude that the reason they appear to be healthy and well fed, is because they have taken advantage of government programs designed to help those in need.
Declining to accept proscribed benefits is not the only action immigrants should take. Conventional wisdom has it that to avoid becoming suspect, those hoping to become permanent residents who have already enrolled in any of those programs, should withdraw from all public assistance programs even if that means they will lose assistance for food, shelter and medical care.
The results are not hard to foresee. Immigrant families who hope to become permanent residents will find themselves confronted with two choices-avail themselves of the benefits to which most of us thought all people living here were entitled, or, eschew those benefits in favor of malnourishment, inadequate housing, and lack of medical care, all in the hope of being granted permanent residency status when their applications are considered. Once permanent residency status has been granted they can, of course, accept the benefits they were forced to forego in order to gain the sought after status.
The foregoing may make it seem that the administration is heartless and wants to make life unpleasant for immigrants so they will leave and, word of their plight will reach others who are considering attempting to immigrate. That, it turns out, is not the case.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, an agency that favors making it harder for immigrants to gain residency status by application of the new rules, is not concerned about immigrants. He is advocating the new rules because he thinks being hard on immigrants is a winning issue for Republicans in upcoming elections. The actual needs of the immigrants are nothing more than a by-product of what Mark believes is a winning political strategy.
Who’d have thought that sacrificing the well-being of people who came to this country seeking the life for which this country was once well known, on the altar of politics, would become a priority for a president. It has.
As Mr. Trump movingly said in his speech in front of the United Nations on September 28th, “Ultimately, the only long-term solution to the migration crisis is to help people build more hopeful futures in their home countries. Make their countries great again.” As his administration has shown, giving people more hopeful futures can be achieved by depriving them of basic human needs so long as they are in the United States, in order to encourage them to voluntarily leave. Who’d have thought this country would ever descend to such a low level. It has, and it is still falling.