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Foreign Policy Analysis
Trump administration seeks to penalize immigrants for using public benefits

Trump administration seeks to penalize immigrants for using public benefits


AMNA NAWAZ: The Trump administration announced
today that it plans to implement new immigration rules. As Yamiche Alcindor explains, it’s one of
the most aggressive steps yet to limit legal immigration. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:
Today’s new rule from the Trump administration limits who will be eligible
for a green card in the United States. Under current law,
immigrants are already required to prove that they are not what the government deems a,
quote, public charge. Today, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting head of
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, announced
the plans. He said any immigrants who use– or who have
deemed likely to use a number of public benefits may not be eligible for legal status. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. CITIZENSHIP
AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES: The benefit to taxpayers is a long term benefit
of seeking to ensure that our immigration system is bringing
people to join us as American citizens as legal permanent residents first who can stand
on their own two feet, who will not be reliant on the welfare
system, especially in the age of the modern welfare state which
is so expansive and expensive frankly. (END VIDEO CLIP) YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The new rule includes services
afforded to legal immigrants under current law,
such as housing assistance, Medicaid and food stamps. To break it all down, I’m joined by Theresa
Cardinal Brown. She is the director of immigration and cross
border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. Thanks so much, Theresa, for being here. Talk to me about how this will impact immigrants
and the legal immigration process in the United States
and who will be most impacted by this new rule. THERESA CARDINAL BROWN, BIPARTISAN POLICY
CENTER: Sure. So, the rule applies to those
who are applying to get green cards in the United States. And, so, one of the long-standing issues in
immigration laws as you mentioned is whether or not someone would become a public charge. That has
been broadly defined as somebody who has been mostly dependent on the government. It’s a criteria that has been, I’d say, used
sparingly, especially over the last couple of decades but has been a
priority of this administration to implement. So, it would look whether or not people who
are applying to be green cardholders have used public benefits
that they might be eligible for. It would apply to current
immigrants or citizens who are looking to sponsor others to come on green cards, and
it would apply to some non-immigrants who are looking to extend
or change their status as well. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: What can you tell us about
how much immigrants use public benefits in comparison to native born Americans. THERESA CARDINAL BROWN: So, we did a literature
review a couple of years about who uses public benefits, and what we found is, in general,
individual immigrants use benefits less often and at lower rates
than U.S. citizens do, but some immigrant-headed households, particularly those with U.S. citizen
children may use more because the children are eligible
for benefits that maybe the immigrant parents are not. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Critics of the new rule
say this is the Trump administration again unfairly
targeting immigrants. There are talks there are going to be swift
legal challenges to this. How does this
new rule really factor into how the Trump administration has overall used its immigration
agenda to target different groups? THERESA CARDINAL BROWN: Well, particularly
its regulatory agenda has been about legal immigrants, and one of the things that we
have seen is that a lot of the regulatory changes that have been
implemented have been about reducing eligibility for legal immigration, reducing the number
of people who can qualified for legal immigration or
slowing down the legal immigration process. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: You said the term public
charge had been kind of implemented and enforced sparingly. Tell us a little bit about the history of
the term public charge and how certain immigrant groups
have been subject to that term and what it’s meant overall and in the years coming. THERESA CARDINAL BROWN: Well, the idea of
preventing the poor or paupers from immigrating has
been around basically since the beginning of the republic. Initially when the United States was created,
states had control over who could immigrant and would look for people who they thought
might not be eligible to — able to work or support themselves. In the 1800s, Congress passed the sort of
uniform immigration rules, the Chinese Escalation
Act that included this public charge rule. But, over the years, it has been very subjectively
enforced. So, for example, during the Ellis Island days,
they would look whether or not they thought somebody was physically able of performing
work, did they have family members already here, sponsors,
did they bring any money with them. So it was sort of on the
fly. This has been a priority of this administration
to get a public charge rule published since the administration
came in. An executive order was issued very early in
the presidency asking for this to be done. So, it’s new
in that we don’t know exactly how it’s going to be implemented. It’s still a relatively subjected standard,
especially that prospective looking part, is an immigrant likely to be become a public
charge? That’s where it’s a little more iffy because
they’re looking at things like, does the immigrant have a work
history? What’s their education level? Do they have any health issues that might
affect whether or not they would become a public charge? We have to kind of see how that would be implemented,
but we’ve already seen some of these because consulates overseas have been implementing
some of this through the visa review process over the last
year, already. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Now, I want to turn to a
major story from last week. Some 680 immigrants
were arrested during immigration raids at food processing centers in Mississippi. What goes into such raids
and what legal consequences if any might employers face? THERESA CARDINAL BROWN: So, a raid like that
is — that size and scope has probably been in
process for many, many months. It probably was based on some information
that Immigration and Customs Enforcement received that those employers
are employing undocumented immigrants, then they
also collaterally arrested undocumented immigrants they found on the premises. Now, ICE will go through
all that documents that they found during those search warrants to see if they have
enough evidence to proceed with prosecutions of those employers. So, we may see some prosecutions, but historically,
it’s been much more difficult to prosecute employers
for knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants than it has been to arrest the undocumented
immigrants themselves and see them deported. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, lots of immigration
news. Thanks so much for joining us, Theresa
Cardinal Brown of the Bipartisan Policy Center. THERESA CARDINAL BROWN: Thank you.

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