By Jonathan Ramirez
“Public charge” is a term historically used in a veil of racism to justify the restraint of immigration based on race or ethnicity. 137 years later, in 2019, we still use it.
The term “public charge” was created during the Immigration Act of 1882 in order to add categories for inadmissible aliens. The document was meant to prohibit access to foreigners “of any convict, lunatic, or idiot, or any person unable to take care of him or yourself without becoming a public charge,” according to the actual document.
Later this year, that definition will be expanded and abused as it always has been.
On an episode of “Morning Edition” on NPR on Aug. 13, Rachel Martin speaks with Ken Cuccinelli, acting head of Citizenship and Immigration Services, in regards to a new “public charge” rule announced last Monday that is set to be implemented Oct. 15.
If enacted, this new rule would obligate immigration authorities to unfairly prove whether or not an applicant for a green card would be a burden to our country’s government based on what welfare programs they have or may need. Even if it’s legally available to them.
Legal immigrants that use or may need public benefits like Section 8 housing vouchers, food stamps and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will heavily count negatively towards the applicant and could result in their green card being delayed or completely rescinded, according to an article by CBS News.
Martin, during the interview, recites the lines from Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus” that says “give us your tired, give us your poor” and asks Cuccinelli if those words are still apart of American ideology.
“They certainly are – give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,” Cuccinelli said.
The true accomplishment of this regulation will be the pitiless punishment of American-born children and their parents who rely on these welfare programs to either feed their children or raise them especially when they did not think it was going to be a problem.
This regulation blatantly targets poor Latinos for using legally acquirable government assistance programs like healthcare or food as a way to “trim the fat” in favor of immigrants with more wealth out of sheer fear.
In the same article by CBS News, immigrant households that fall under a certain income threshold are going to be subjected to a “public charge” test that would assess their ability to read, write and speak English.
But how can one be a “public charge” when there is no official language in the United States? This test is irrelevant and does not serve a purpose in deciding whether or not someone can stay here.
The path of citizenship is broken and we need a complete reform, but it won’t happen under this administration.