Trump’s Latest Target: Legal Immigrants Requiring Public Assistance

Then they came for the documented immigrants.

A frequent rebuttal one receives from Republicans when they’re confronted with questions about Donald Trump’s war on immigrants is “They should come here legally.”

This is, of course, a reductive fallacy that might make a catchy pick-up truck bumper sticker or fascist-right slogan. In the real world, however, immigration is a complicated issue that immigrants simply “coming here legally” cannot assuage.

Consider the fact that although Donald Trump may have stalked the campaign trail in 2015-16 with saber-rattling about illegal immigration, now he is president, he has no intention of demonizing only those in this country without proper documentation.

In its intent to make America whiter again, the Trump administration has moved into its next phase of shutting out documented immigrants as well.

On Monday, The New York Times reported:

“The Trump administration will penalize legal immigrants who rely on public programs, such as food stamps and government-subsidized housing, as part of a sweeping new policy to slow legal immigration into the United States and reduce the number of immigrants who are granted permanent legal status.

“The move will have the greatest impact on poor immigrants who are living in the country legally and are receiving public benefits from the government, forcing them to make a choice between accepting financial help and living and working in the country legally. It will probably not affect immigrants who already have green cards.”

Naturally, the administration is hoping the “personal responsibility” excuse will work to justify its cruelty.

Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Ken Cuccinelli, stated:

“Through the public charge rule, President Trump’s administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility.”

And the fait accompli: under the new rule, legal immigrants who rely on public assistance will be ineligible for green cards, thereby making them “illegal.”

The New York Times added:

“Starting in October, the government’s decision will be based on an aggressive wealth test to determine whether those immigrants have the means to support themselves.”

So much for Emma Lazurus’ stanza “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” etched in stone on the Statue of Liberty.

What Trump and Company want to promote is an immigration system where only the college-educated, financially independent, and European are welcomed.

Cuccinelli admitted as much on CNN’s “OutFront,” when he told host Erin Burnett:

“That poem was referred back to people coming from Europe, where they had class-based societies. Where people were considered wretched if they weren’t in the right class.”

Although he tried to deny saying it, Burnett played a recording of Cuccinelli rephrasing the iconic lines:

“Give me your tired and poor who can stand on their own two feet and not become a public charge.”

The Trump administration warmed up this recent policy two years ago when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) stated the White House sought to impose fees on retailers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps.

This is not just an affront to immigrants–documented or otherwise; it’s an all-out assault on the poor and working class who, due to sluggish wage growth, must depend on government assistance.

The majority of the country does not support the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policies.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, 72 percent of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Image credit:

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.