Both the Washington Post andVox recently published articles attacking President Trump’s new “public charge” rule. The Post implies that the Trump administration is engaging in an, “an egregious attempt to supercede [sic] and overturn congressional will.” Vox makes the hyperbolic claim that “Trump quietly cut legal immigration by up to 65%.” In reality, neither of those claims is remotely true.
Let’s address the Post’s claims first: In 1996, Congress saw, “a compelling government interest to enact new rules for eligibility and sponsorship agreements in order to assure that aliens be self-reliant in accordance with national immigration policy.” In order to meet that need, it passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which reformed our welfare policies, and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which reformed our immigration system.
Those pieces of legislation consisted mainly of measures intended to keep destitute foreigners from arriving in the U.S. and expecting American taxpayers to foot the bill for their support. Congress barred both illegal aliens and recently-arrived legal immigrants from receiving taxpayer-funded benefits. It also required petitioners sponsoring a prospective immigrant to assume financial responsibility for that immigrant when he/she arrives in the United States and to sign a legal document formally acknowledging that responsibility.
However, in response to complaints from immigrant advocacy groups that the public charge rules were “draconian,” the Clinton administration unlawfully re-defined public charge, allowing both legal and illegal aliens to collect most types of welfare, without fear of penalty. Subsequently, President Obama, also acting unlawfully, expanded the range of benefits available to non-citizens, moving well beyond even the Clinton-era guidelines. These were blatant attempts to make an end-run around Congress and thwart its will.
The Trump administration has simply issued a new regulation requiring the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to apply the 1996 public charge laws as they were written by Congress. That’s an obvious attempt to honor the will of Congress and respect the Legislature’s position in our model of constitutional federalism. But it is most emphatically not an egregious attempt to supersede and overturn congressional will.
What about the claims made by Vox? To begin with, one can hardly characterize the Trump administration of doing anything “quietly.” And the implementation of the public charge rule runs true to form. In October of 2018 Team Trump publicly proposed the new rule, accompanied by the typical fanfare. In August of 2019, Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli announced the final rule at a press conference covered by all the major news outlets. Far from gently humming The Sounds of Silence while implementing this rule, the Trump administration was actually screaming C’mon Feel the Noise into any available loudspeaker.
How much will this rule cut immigration to the United States? In reality, not much. The lines to get into our country are already lengthy. It is likely that, rather than reducing immigration, this rule will simply allow intending immigrants who are financially solvent to move to the head of the line. Vox doesn’t address this possibility because it doesn’t fit the outlet’s open borders ideology.