Trump wants immigrants and sponsors to repay government assistance
May 24, 2019
Trump’s efforts to make life miserable for people seeking a new life in the United States is increasingly focused on those who migrated to the U.S. through official, “legal” means. Since his administration’s efforts to recraft the “public charge” rule last October - a new rule under which people here with a green card that received any government assistance could face removal proceedings - to the proposal of Housing and Urban Development last month to evict people from public housing if any member of that household was undocumented, Trump is engaging an all out war to target low-income immigrants. Yesterday, Trump announced that his administration issued a memorandum requiring that immigrants or their sponsors pay back any government assistance they may have received:
President Donald Trump took another step Thursday to crack down on legal immigration, instructing agencies to enforce a 23-year-old law that requires sponsors of green card holders to reimburse the government for welfare benefits.
Trump approved a memorandum Thursday to enforce a pair of provisions signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the White House said. The move comes as Trump has sought to overhaul legal immigration despite congressional resistance.
The announcement came with a justification - one we’ve heard before - that 58 percent of non-citizen headed households have accessed public assistance “in some form.” The source of this statistic is most likely a National Academy of the Sciences report that found that 58 percent of immigrant households with children had used “any welfare.” Importantly, included in this definition of welfare is food assistance programs like free lunch and breakfast programs at public schools. The same study showed that “native” households accessed housing and cash assistance programs at higher rates than immigrants. The percent of immigrant households where someone had accessed Medicaid was 50 percent, but a number that fluctuates dramatically state to state. A fact check of an earlier similar claim by Trump included this:
University of California, Davis Law School Dean and immigration expert Kevin Johnson said immigrants cannot be over consuming public benefits because they are not eligible to receive the benefits in the first place.
“To say that the general rate of use by immigrants of public benefits is anywhere close to 50 percent is an exaggeration and just isn’t supported by the evidence,” he said.
Ultimately, the numbers ignore income levels and the fact that many immigrant headed households have citizen members of that household, often the children.
But the point, for Trump, is not to be accurate. Remember this is the man who last year Tweeted:
Not a single statistic in this tweet is accurate. The $3,874 number came from a report about a refugee family (legal!) receiving a one time cash assistance payment (not monthly) to help with resettlement - IN CANADA! Average social security checks in the U.S. are over $1,400 a month - not that this was the point of the tweet.
Trump is working from a very old playbook - associate immigrants with crime and welfare, project the idea that they are granted some kind of preferential treatment over U.S. citizens and blame all of this on the Democratic Party. This is warmed over “southern strategy” style race baiting. The goal is to create resentment and give those in the twitter-verse, social media and watching Fox News a target for that resentment. Which is to say, accuracy has nothing to do with it.
As the election proceeds, Trump will continue to beat the drum of “deserving” and “undeserving” immigrants issue statements that confuse documented and undocumented immigration to cast a shadow over everyone in this country that is not a U.S. citizen. Fight for policies that animate this bigotry in an effort to keep the debate going and put the Democrats on the defensive should they push back at all.
Of course, it is not 1968. Demographic trends are not on the GOP’s side. This is the racist swan song of a dying order. But, for now, enough people are willing to dance to this tune that real damage to our country and the lives of millions of people is being done.