Public Charge: Completely Missing the Point



YubaNet.com is an internet news platform serving the agricultural region in the northern reaches of the Sacramento Valley. Many of the agricultural businesses in the region are dependent on immigrant farm labor, both legal and illegal. So, it’s no surprise that many of the region’s residents skew toward the open-borders lobby.

However, a recent article on YubaNet.com shows just how out-of-touch with reality the pro-alien lobby has become. Titled “Trump ‘public charge rule’ to impose a financial test for immigrants that 40 percent of U.S. born would fail.” The piece is, in essence, a re-hash of a press release announcing the publication of a study by the open-borders Migration Policy Institute.

The argument is straightforward: a large number of native-born U.S. citizens would be considered “public charges” if they were immigrants. Therefore, the Trump administration’s attempts to strengthen public charge rules – the regulations that state newly arrived migrants should not become dependent on public support – are unfair and unreasonable.

However, that argument is both totally irrelevant and utterly silly. Citizens of the United States aren’t subject to public charge laws because our social safety net was designed to support them. It was not, however, designed to finance new lives in the United States for indigent immigrants who can’t, or won’t, find gainful employment in their new country of residence.

Both the Migration Policy Institute and YubaNet.com seem to miss that key point: different legal standards apply to folks who aren’t U.S. citizens. But they’re not missing anything. Drawing a false equivalency between those who possess full membership in our polity and those who do not is a common tactic employed by the open borders contingent, in order to imply that immigration enforcement is inhumane.

In reality, enforcing our immigration laws is far from callous or cold-hearted. Clearly established, carefully defended borders and consistently applied requirements for immigrating to the U.S. ensure that we, as a nation, are able to offer safety, security and economic opportunity for those willing and able to contribute to the success of the United States. And public charge laws are simply an acknowledgment that we expect those who would become Americans to be self-sufficient.

On the other hand, a failure to enforce the public charge rules sets the United States up as an extended welfare plan for every country that is failing to provide economic stability for its own citizens. And that is something that the United States can’t afford to become. Allowing those who have not paid into our system to begin drawing benefits as soon as they arrive is a recipe for bankruptcy.

So, 40 percent of native-born U.S. citizens may, as MPI claims qualify as public charges. But, so what? The U.S. government has an obligation to assist its own citizens, should they fall on hard times. It does not, however, have any duty to spend billions of American tax dollars subsidizing the American dream for recently arrived foreigners.

About Author

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Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats.He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Grossly Mischaracterizing the Public Charge Proposal | ImmigrationReform.com

  2. avatar

    But aren’t ALL immigrants supposed to be a big plus for this country? Isn’t THAT always the left-wing and big-business story? Don’t they ALL “contribute”? So now that that particular talking point has been proven false, the line is that we have native born people on welfare so there is no good reason to keep out foreigners who have a good chance of eventually going on welfare? This is like the argument that because we have American citizens who commit crimes then it doesn’t matter if foreigners commit them also. People were turned around at Ellis Island if it was felt there was a good chance they would become public charges.

    So all the blather about the Statue of Liberty and “your great grandparents” is just that, a lot of blather. Many also returned home when they couldn’t make it here. For the historically challenged on the left, there were no welfare programs then. We attracted the tough and motivated. Now we attract welfare recipients. Come here legally or illegally, have a kid or four and you’re on the gravy train.