Acting Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli announced a change in the “public charge” rule Monday that will deny green cards for immigrants on Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, and other public welfare. It of course elicited liberally charged questions from reporters.
The “public charge” rule, enacted in 1882, requires green card applicants to prove they will not be a burden to the United States. The new changes, detailed in an 800-page document going into effect mid-October, will determine “the totality of the circumstances when making a public charge inadmissibility determination.”
“Through the public charge rule, President Trump’s administration is re-enforcing the ideal of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful in America,” Cuccinelli said in the press conference.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) arrests of several hundred illegal aliens in Mississippi last week incited yet another cycle of media outrage. Several White House reporters asked Cuccinelli about it. One quoted the poetic sentiment engraved on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor…” Is this sentiment, he asked, still operative in the United States, or should it be removed from our statue?
The reporter was referring to the poem “The New Colossus,” written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. At the end of the poem Lady Liberty cries out, “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!”
This image of a destitute newcomer may seem in conflict with Cuccinelli’s self-sufficient immigrant. Is there a discrepancy in America’s immigration ethos? Are Lady Liberty’s words a reachable reality or a utopia? The answer typically depends on which side of the aisle you stand.
The first ideal says it is the government’s humanitarian duty to welcome all poor seeking refuge in the United States. All who come to our borders deserve to be wrapped with taxpayer-funded welfare blankets, no matter how bankrupt our systems are. These ideals are espoused by the left.
The second ideal is rooted in right-wing ideals of small government. It is not the government’s job to provide housing vouchers and Medicaid for everyone. The government’s first priority is to American citizens, and immigration policies and border controls are for our protection. We welcome immigrants here seeking the freedom that requires them to govern and provide for themselves.
One reporter asked in the press conference, “Why shouldn’t the Latino community feel targeted by this?”
“This is 140-year-old legal structure,” Cuccinelli said. “We’re dealing with the most recent iteration of it, but this is not new… There’s no reason for any particular group to feel like this is targeting them.”
America cannot save the world from all suffering. Americans cannot afford to support welfare for any person in the world who gets here and then demands it. That does not change the spirit of our immigration laws that welcomes those made poor and needy by totalitarian governments that take wealth from some and redistribute it to others in currently politically favored groups.
“We have a long history of being one of the most welcoming nations in the world on a lot of bases, whether you be an asylee, whether you be coming here to join your family, or immigrating yourself,” Cuccinelli said. “I do not think by any means, we’re ready to take anything off the Statue of Liberty.”
Susanna Hoffman is an intern for The Federalist and a student at Patrick Henry College where she studies journalism. You can follow her on Twitter @_SusannaHoffman.