US President Donald Trump announced a new regulation on 12 August concerning lawful permanent residents (LPR), commonly known as "green card holders." American observers have been weighing up the pros and cons of the initiative as well as its potential impact on the US economy.
What makes the American green card so desirable for individuals striving to emigrate to the US, is that it gives a whole set of benefits to its holder, including the right to apply for government-sponsored aid for healthcare and education, as well as social security benefits when they retire (if they have worked and paid Social Security taxes in the US for 10 years). It is therefore hardly surprising that almost 382,000 people are currently seeking to obtain American residency, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
But the Trump administration argues that those planning to settle down in the US should not become a "charge" on American taxpayers.
"Through the public charge rule, President Trump's administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America," Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, told journalists Monday.
The new 837-page rule, which is due to come into force in mid-October, obliges immigration officials to examine whether the immigrant’s current family income is above 125 percent of the federal poverty level. It also stipulates that the green card or temporary visa should be denied to those aliens who received "one or more designated public benefits" including Medicaid, housing assistance or food stamps, for more than 12 months within any 36-month period.
Nevertheless, the regulation clarifies that there could be exemptions for:
· certain members of the US Armed Forces and their families;
· certain international adoptees;
· receipt of Medicaid by aliens under the age of 21, pregnant women (and women for up to 60 days after giving birth), and for certain services funded by Medicaid under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or in a school setting.
The move has added to the already hot debate between the White House and Democratic lawmakers which have long criticised Trump for his crackdown on illegal immigration.
"If you're an immigrant, [Trump] believes you have no place in this country", Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke tweeted Monday.
Legal. Undocumented. Refugee. Asylum Seeker. The distinctions don't matter to President Trump. If you're an immigrant, he believes you have no place in this country—even though, for 243 years, immigrants have made America the greatest nation the world has ever known. https://t.co/k3eiud9vT2— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) 12 августа 2019 г.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on 12 August that she would sue to block the regulation, while two California countries, San Francisco and Santa Clara, have already filed a plea against Trump's new green card rule dubbing it "just another attempt to vilify immigrants." Left-leaning media pundits argue that the move makes no sense with regard to the national economy, saying that the spike in illegal immigration on the southern border is the result of Trump's "choking off" opportunities for those seeking legal access.
Trump's New Green Card Rule to Accomplish These Two Tasks
Despite the ongoing media fuss over Trump's new green card rule, Dan Cadman, a fellow at the Centre for Immigration Studies and a retired INS/ICE official, believes that the initiative is justified as a "common sense measure on the part of the US government."
He says that the regulation will help the White House achieve two major goals:
First, to ensure that recent immigrants – who have contributed little or nothing through taxpayer dollars – do not take advantage of public welfare systems to support themselves and their families, which would be unfair for citizens or long-time resident aliens who have contributed their taxpayer dollars to sustain those programmes.
Second, "to ensure that when sponsors petition to bring an alien (and sometimes the family also) to the US, they are held to their promise, and actually step in to provide for these immigrants' needs instead of expecting taxpayer dollars to be used to support people that they chose to bring to the US," says Cadman.
But Westy Egmont, director of the Immigrant Integration Lab at Boston College, holds a different stance observing that the measure "appears to be a very intentional policy, to shut out anyone who’s making less than 250 percent of the casual poverty line which is in the US 64 thousand dollars".
"So it will have a tremendous effect, affecting the future demographics of immigration - both by the chilling effect and by the absolute exclusion that is likely to happen for many people who are unable to support themselves due to whatever life circumstance might make them vulnerable," he argues.
The Move to Backfire on Migrants' Families and US Labour Market
According to Egmont, the new green card rule will have a dramatic effect on newcomers' families, as the US immigration is "almost two-thirds family reunification." The regulation will make it harder to bring one's mother or sibling into the country, "especially those who might not be as capable of an early and quick self-achievement in terms of economic means," he adds.
On the other hand, it will also have an impact on other potential sponsors, most notably, employers, Egmont says.
Kevin R. Johnson, dean of University of California, Davis School of Law, shares Egmont's concerns by saying that the regulation could backfire to the detriment of the US labour market.
"I think that the concern is this is going to be the system that benefits the wealthy and punishes working and low income people," the professor says. "Truth of the matter is the US labour market needs people who are workers as well as people who are wealthy. The fear is by screening out too many moderate income people, we’re going to tighten the labour pool and make it more difficult for employers to find workers to do the jobs that need to be done".
By Forcing Migrants to Abandon Healthcare Benefits, Gov't Will Overpay for Emergency Care
While the US administration is seeking to reduce the financial burden on US tax payers and the states' budget, it seems that the recent measure is unlikely to solve this problem, Egmont believes.
"Americans will not likely to see a substantial change because of this policy," says Egmont, since immigrants constitute a small percentage of US welfare constituents.
At the same time, it is likely that green card applicants will refuse social services so as not to be denied US green cards or visas in the future, Egmont believes, adding that "a greater number of people will be at risk in terms of their health and I would say the public health as well."
"The consequences of the action would be (worse for) aliens and increase the tear when their conditions become too severe to ignore," he notes citing the CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges. "So likely anything that is put off today is going to have a greater expense in future and not likely to be a source of great savings."
Kevin R. Johnson also doubts that Trump's move is going to be "an overall a cost saving device" because that "might drive up the cost of emergency care" for the government.
"In the long run, [that] can be costly because people aren’t healthy and don’t get regular visits to the doctors - they’re more likely end up in the emergency rooms, where the cost of treatment is covered by the government for immigrants, as well as citizens," he says.
While weighing up the pros and cons of the rule, one would agree that it's hard to predict who is going to be a really successful member of the society: "When I look at those stories, like, almost 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies in America were founded by an immigrant," Egmont concludes.
The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.