Once again, the Trump administration is looking to punish immigrants. And once again, innocent children are getting hurt in the process.
This time, however, many of those innocent children are likely to be U.S. citizens.
On Tuesday, NBC News reported that the Trump administration is readying a new rule that should make your blood boil. The initiative, in the works for more than a year, would make it harder for legal immigrants to receive either green cards or citizenship if they — or anyone in their households — has ever benefited from a long list of safety-net programs. These include the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), food stamps or even health insurance purchased on the Obamacare exchanges.
Three points are worth emphasizing here.
First is that, again, this policy would apply to immigrants who are in the country legally . It's not about punishing people for “sneaking across the border,” that apparently unforgivable transgression that Trump officials have previously used to justify state-sanctioned child abuse. And, in any case, undocumented immigrants are already excluded from nearly all federal anti-poverty programs.
As such, the proposal fits into President Trump's agenda to dramatically cut levels of legal immigration, despite his rhetorical focus on the undocumented.
Second, this rule is ostensibly about making sure immigrants are self-sufficient and not a drain on public coffers. But NBC reports that the rule could disqualify immigrants making as much as 250 percent of the poverty level.
Moreover, an immigrant's past use of benefits does not necessarily mean he or she will need them forever. Even the immigrant populations that you might expect to have the most trouble achieving economic self-sufficiency have proved to be a good long-term investment for the nation's fiscal health.
For instance, refugees initially cost the government money; they need a lot of help, after all, given that they often arrive penniless and without proficient English-language skills. But over time, their work and wage prospects improve and, by their fifth year here, they pay more in taxes than they received in benefits on average, according to a government report commissioned and subsequently suppressed by the Trump administration last year. (The report eventually leaked to the New York Times.)