In the months since the Trump administration announced rules pertaining to immigrants who are likely to become, or who are, “public charges,” two Northern California counties recorded notable declines in benefit enrollments.
San Francisco and Santa Clara counties reported that use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) by immigrant households declined 12.8 percent and 20 percent respectively. San Francisco also said Medicaid participation by immigrant households dropped 13.5 percent.
The counties cited the statistics in a U.S. District Court filing as evidence of “irreparable harm” from pending public-charge rules. Seeking to block the rules, local officials called them “arbitrary,” “capricious,” “irrational” and other nasty things.
Such hyperbole is over the top. Despite claims that the administration is pursuing a “radical expansion” of the definition of a public charge, the new rules fully exempt asylum-seekers and refugees.
In fact, the rules are consistent with the spirit and letter of long-standing public-charge laws. As FAIR points out:
- Bans on immigrants likely to become a public charge date back to the days of colonial Massachusetts, and were first enacted into U.S. immigration law in 1882. Restrictions were reinforced in the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, the current basis of the nation’s immigration laws.
- In 1996, Congress reiterated its desire to bar those likely to become a public charge, noting that immigrants should arrive self-sufficient.
Today, however, nearly half of all immigrant-led households are on some form of public assistance (versus 30 percent of native households).
Instead celebrating immigrants’ strides toward self-support, Bay Area bureaucrats are clamoring to keep caseloads up. Americans are rightfully concerned about a public-assistance system that fosters dependency on handouts.
In an area where one in three residents is foreign-born, San Francisco and Santa Clara officials say they will “have to spend extra resources on outreach and education so people will not stop accessing services.”
That’s a choice localities can make at their own expense. It’s Washington’s job to ensure and enforce sensible immigration policies for this country.
To accurately identify those who are, or would become, a public charge, the administration’s new rules reasonably require immigration caseworkers to consider non-cash benefits such as government housing, food and health care (including diagnosed conditions that require extensive medical treatment). Income levels and language skills are also factored in.
In an age of ever-growing government entitlements, Americans are entitled to government policies that responsibly determine the ultimate reward: U.S. green cards and citizenship. It seems that some Bay Area immigrants got the message.