President Donald Trumps new regulations to bar immigrants who depend on government benefits from becoming legal permanent residents are about politics, not policy. Its just the newest rendition of the old racist welfare queen scare. This time, the message has been retooled to fit the current immigration fracas and calibrated to make Democrats look like they support giving unlimited government benefits to calculating immigrants flocking to the United States simply to suckle at the government teat.
The benefit-motivated immigrant is a popular trope describing a rare phenomenon. Immigrants here illegally are not eligible for most government benefits and often go to great lengths to avoid the agencies that distribute them. Even immigrants here legally are mostly barred from receiving federal benefits until they have been in the country for five years. And immigrants receive benefits at significantly lower rates, and participate in the work force in higher percentages, than native-born people.
The Department of Homeland Security, under a plan devised by White House adviser and anti-immigrant zealot Stephen Miller, has finalized new regulations that would keep immigrants from entering the country, renewing visas or obtaining permanent legal status if they are likely at any time to become a public charge. The rules would take effect Oct. 15. Immigrants who have received government benefits for 12 months out of the previous 36 could be penalized. However, the change also would let immigration officers penalize applicants who might need such benefits down the road, without setting any firm standards on how to support that determination.