This new immigration rule is un-American

This new immigration rule is un-American

Originally published by CNN

The "public charge" rule change which took effect Monday to block poor or disabled immigrants from seeking better lives in the United States is quintessentially Trumpian -- and quintessentially un-American.

It's the latest example of this President's arrogance and cruelty when it comes to how we treat our fellow human beings -- the "tired," "poor," "huddled masses yearning to breathe free," as Emma Lazarus's poem "The New Colossus" explains in her timeless tribute on the Statue of Liberty.
That statue in New York's harbor has greeted millions of newcomers to our country who came with little more than the clothes on their backs, yet parlayed their dreams and their hard work into better lives for families and a stronger, bigger economy for all of us. It's an integral part of our nation's history that President Trump seems determined to ignore, as he continues to use immigrants as scapegoats for whatever ails our economy and our society.
I read Lazarus' poem aloud at a naturalization ceremony for more than 1,300 new citizens in Oakland last August -- when the Trump administration unleashed its revised "public charge" rule. This rule -- a sweeping effort to restrict legal immigration and turn America's back on our neighbors -- lets officials refuse green cards to any immigrant who currently uses, or may likely need, any form of public-benefit assistance. In other words, if any immigrant may ever need Medicare, food stamps, housing vouchers, or is "likely to become a public charge at any time," they could be disqualified from permanent legal status.
"This rule enforces longstanding law requiring aliens to be self-sufficient, reaffirming the American ideals of hard work, perseverance and determination," said Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. But the ideals it enforces are certainly anything but American.
Public charge rules were used to exclude tens of thousands of German Jews who were trying to flee Nazi oppression. Sadly, when the Supreme Court ruled January 27 to clear the way for President Trump's rule to take effect, it did so on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. #NeverAgain should not just be a hashtag -- it should be a commitment.
Yet this cruelty isn't a by-product of policy; this cruelty is the policy. This is being done in America's name and we now must decide what kind of nation we want to be.
Since the new rule's announcement, we've seen a nationwide uproar as civil rights groups turned to the courts for an injunction. Yet any victories found in lower courts were short-lived and the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to allow the rule. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would take effect Monday, February 24.
DHS estimates that over 382,000 immigrants per year will be affected; The New American Economy, a nonprofit immigration research group, estimates a much higher number -- 3.9 million -- will be affected. For many, critical assistance programs help immigrants get on their feet and support their families as they begin a new life in America, preventing hunger or homelessness. For so many others, this new rule may mean permanent separation from their family if some family members are denied permission to permanently remain in the US. These families may depend on their income and presence. Many eligible individuals may not seek out these public benefits out of fear that it will jeopardize their immigration status.
This is not who we are as Americans. Immigrants are not "burdens" upon the American public as the Trump administration wants you to believe. In fact, our economy likely would suffer without the immigrants this rule could bar from living in the US: An analysis by New American Economy found it would cost the US economy about $81.9 billion per year. This includes billions earned in income, spending, and taxes paid by immigrants. As the economy expands, more jobs are created and there's more work to be done in high-skilled and low-skilled work sectors.
My district, California's 15th Congressional District, is a perfect example: It is both one of the most diverse districts in the nation, with about 35% of our residents foreign-born, and also one of the most affluent districts in the nation.
Despite the President's relentless effort to restrict legal immigration, America is stronger because of immigrants' hard work and contributions in every generation. We need comprehensive immigration reform that accounts for this, not punitive and short-sighted reactionism like this public charge rule.
President Ronald Reagan had it right in his 1989 farewell address to the nation, when he referenced John Winthrop and spoke of his vision of America as the "shining city on a hill."

"(I)n my mind, it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace -- a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity," Reagan said. "And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here."
The will and the heart -- not the cold, hard cash. We are better than that.


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