Grossly Mischaracterizing the Public Charge Proposal

Unsurprisingly, the stridently pro-illegal-alien Los Angeles Times is criticizing the Trump administration’s proposed new public charge rule. But the  Times mischaracterizes the proposed rule, stating that government officials would now have, “broad power to reject people whom they believe might someday in the future tap government programs for financial support.”

In reality, immigration officers already have the authority to reject any aliens who appear to be unable to support themselves or their dependents. And they have, since the birth of the Republic. The first public charge laws were enacted by the Massachusetts legislature when the Bay State was still a colony.  And the first comprehensive federal immigration law—enacted by Congress on August 3, 1882— included a bar against the admission of “any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.” In fact, until the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, most admissibility determinations based on an alien’s ability to earn a living in the United States.

The Trump administration’s rule would simply clarify longstanding law, which already allows:

  • S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to deny immigration benefits to individuals who rely upon taxpayer-funded benefits for basic survival.
  • S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport those who are unable to support themselves.
  • S. Customs and Border Protection to refuse admission to anyone who is likely to become destitute and require government assistance.

But according to the  Times, “These are unnecessarily strict and hard-hearted rules aimed at solving a problem that social scientists say doesn’t exist.” The newspaper maintains that, “Clinton-era welfare reforms already put major social service programs out of reach for most legal immigrants until they’ve been here for five years; undocumented immigrants are barred from nearly all public support.”

Of course, that’s a wildly inaccurate claim. While the Clinton administration allegedly pushed “draconian” welfare reforms, it also administratively redefined “public charge” in order to ensure that most lawful immigrants using public benefits would not be considered dependent on taxpayer funded benefits. In turn, the Obama administration further broadened the Clinton-era guidelines, making even more benefits available to foreigners who never paid into our social safety net. And these actions imposed a heavy financial burden American taxpayers still shoulder to this day.

In fact, according to a study conducted by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), over half of all immigrant-led households currently use at least one welfare program. Meanwhile, only  30 percent of native-headed households use at least one welfare program.

And those figures don’t represent short-term usage of a program just to get through tough times, as the LA Times and other alien-advocates would have you believe. The same CIS study found that, after 20 years in the United States, 48 percent of households headed by immigrants still continue to access at least one welfare program.

According to data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) 7.5 million immigrants will be enrolled in Medicaid by 2030 – provided that immigration rates remain stable, rather than rising. Given the already weak state of the Medicaid program, that would appear to be an unsupportable burden.

Rather than “hard-hearted rules aimed at solving a problem that social scientists say doesn’t exist,” the Trump administration’s efforts would seem to be a common sense effort reduce the burden imposed on taxpayers by unchecked mass migration. But common sense seems to be in very short supply at the LA Times.

About Author


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.


  1. avatar

    Their headline says Trump’s proposal “solves a problem that doesn’t exist”. ??? That sort of begs the question of what then are they worried about. If the problem “doesn’t exist” who then is affected? Typical meaningless horse manure by globalist propagandists. What the hell does the opinion of “social scientists” matter. As pointed out above, numerous studies show that legal and illegal immigrants use different welfare programs at high rates. Those are actual hard figures, not some wishing and hoping and denials of something that is undeniable.

    It’s also horse manure that illegals are barred from welfare. THEY may be, but the taxpayers pay a LARGE part of the bill for raising their numerous “citizen children”. Even assuming that the “5 year ban” for legals is accurate, which it isn’t, what about the 40, 50 or more years that they could easily be eligible? And they pull the old “we need workers” card, when the fact is that EVERY prediction is that up to a third of present jobs will be automated in the next 20 years. Also, a majority of boomers say they will need to work at least part time because they do not have enough saved for retirement.

  2. avatar

    But why should the LA Times be concerned about whether or not immigrants can pay their own way? It is not as if the State of California was going broke and had billions in unfunded future pension liabilities and US citizen taxpayers were fleeing the state in droves or anything.

  3. avatar
    8th generation American Patriot on

    Mass immigration enthusiasts, one side of mouth:
    “Immigrants are all awesome at everything always – they all start tech start-ups, and are all brain surgeons and all valedictorians! They boost the economy with their awesomeness pay lots of taxes and never take welfare! More more more mass immigration please!!!

    The same mass immigration enthusiasts, other side of mouth:
    “How dare you meanies cut off welfare from our poor, our huddled, our teeming masses yearning to get help from rich greedy selfish Americans!!”

  4. avatar

    Did anyone expect honesty about this issue from the Lame Stream Media? The LAT doesn’t care whether hard-working taxpayers have to carry Democratic voters on their backs!