Brief #54—Immigration

Policy Summary
To promote self-sufficiency and protect finite resources, the Trump Administration has proposed harsher reviews of individuals applying for green cards and/or permanent resident status in the US. Historically, federal law has excluded immigrants who are likely to become “public charge,” but Trump has taken his own drastic measures to ensure this. Specifically, immigrants who have previously relied on public assistance benefits such as food stamps, housing subsidies (i.e., Section 8 housing vouchers) and Medicaid for (low-cost prescription drugs) will face stronger barriers to obtaining a green card.

This forces millions of poor immigrants to pick between a green card to live and work legally in the US or accepting financial help. Advocates fear that those with legal resident status will stop using public benefits to protect their status. Roughly 382,000 people seeking to adjust their immigration status could be subject to “public charge reviews” each year to assess how much of a burden they could be on the American taxpayers and government. Immigration law states that age, health, family status, financial resources, skills and education should be taken into account when evaluating. Nearly 1 million people become legal permanent residents each year in the US, so the Trump Administration feels they can be choosy about who is allowed into the country.

But for some, it is not so simple to apply for such legal status. Certain health conditions like mental health disorders, heart disease and cancer are also among the heavily weighted factors being taken into consideration during application. Individuals with the above predicaments are red-flagged and seen as likely to ecru high medical costs and thus be a burden. Some immigrants could be asked in some cases to post cash bonds of at least $10,000 to avoid being denied green cards. For many, this is simply not feasible. While this new rule does not affect refugees, asylum seekers or legal immigrants who serve in the US military, many will feel the brunt of this most recent crackdown on immigration to the US.

In contrast to the Trump Administration’s claims, there have been many studies about the economic effects and legacies of immigration to the US. According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services data, immigrants and non-immigrants alike benefit from public assistance at almost the same rate. The lasting effects of immigration has proven even more beneficial to the US as time progresses: first generation immigrants cost US taxpayers roughly $57.4 Billion dollars, but second and third generation Americans make for an economic boost of $30.5 Billion and $223.8 Billion, respectively.

This new regulation creates a caste-like system among US immigrants. Poor immigrants with health conditions are expected to prove they are insured, yet cannot access the available benefits to enroll and thus have a far lower chance at changing their immigration status than their wealthy counterparts. The executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies and others  who supports decreased immigration that low level skilled workers are a mismatch for such a modern society. What they don’t like to admit is the fact that low-skilled immigrants perform many important functions in our country that others eschew, such as cleaning, gardening, picking crops and providing home health care. Tightening immigration policies has become a given to bring Republicans to the polls, while motivating Democrats to stand by their values and uphold the nation’s promise of being a beacon of light for the world.

Resistance Resources

  • The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law: a nonpartisan law and policy institute that works to defend and reform – as necessary – the US systems of democracy and justice, focusing on upholding the Constitution and US laws while maintaining national security.
  • Stay up to date with the National Immigration Forum who advocates for the value of immigrants and immigration to the US and promotes responsible immigration policies and addresses those that hinder the success of immigrants.
  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.

This Brief was authored by Kathryn Baron. For inquiries, suggestions or comments email

Photo by Jhon David

Subscribe Below to Our News Service

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This