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Republicans hate two groups of people almost more than any others: immigrants and poor people (also black people, but Republicans assume they're all poor anyway). So it's awfully convenient that just in time for the midterms, the Department of Homeland Security is rolling out a new rule that will refuse visas and green cards to legal immigrants who've ever made use of public benefits they legally qualify for, because heavens, we certainly don't want to reward Lazy Takers, do we? It's a beautiful election-season twofer against immigrants and poors, and yes, of course it's the brainchild of Trump's immigration Obersturmbannführer, Stephen Miller.


The proposed rule was unveiled by DHS Saturday, a lovely bit of timing during a hectic news weekend: minimal splash in mainstream news, but still very much available to GOP candidates who want to make lots of noise about sticking it to immigrants. It's the final version of a proposal the administration started floating in February; under the proposed rule, visas and permanent legal status -- a green card -- would be denied to legal immigrants who had made use of benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps ), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare), Medicaid, or Section 8 rental housing assistance. Oh, yeah, and because we definitely don't want old-people immigrants, no green cards for people using Medicare Part D prescription drug subsidies.

And to the trolls out there: This is squarely aimed at legal immigrants who follow the rules. Undocumented migrants are already barred from getting any of these benefits. It's also not about cracking down on "fraud and abuse," because those who've fraudulently accessed government benefits are already barred from getting green cards or having visas renewed.

This new rule would vastly expand the existing policy against admitting anyone who might become a "public charge" -- a nice old-fashioned Ellis Islandy term, no? Up to now, that's been fairly narrowly defined as someone who receives more than half their income from government cash assistance -- aka "welfare," under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. As we've noted, the Trump administration has long yearned to redefine all public financial assistance (except of course oil subsidies or tax write-offs for the middle and upper class) as one kind of "welfare" or another -- for all Americans, citizens or no -- so this fits right in. And since this is a change to an existing federal regulation, Congress doesn't have to approve it -- though a later Congress could block or repeal it.

Who would be fucked over by the new rules? The New York Times 'splainers the rule

will require that immigration caseworkers consider the use of public benefits to be "heavily weighed negative factors" for those who are applying to remain legally in the country on a permanent basis. Those who are deemed likely to become dependent on government assistance will probably be denied.

The rule would affect people seeking to immigrate to the United States permanently and others who are in the country on temporary visas — including students and workers — who seek to stay permanently.

DHS estimates the rules would affect about 380,000 people a year, although the real effect is likely to be much broader, since, as immigration advocates point out, people in fear of their immigration applications being rejected will probably drop out of programs that aren't considered in the new rules, just to be on the safe side. That means kids going without healthcare and nuitrition assistance, hooray. We've already learned this administration doesn't give two shits about poor kids, and Trump voters will be all the more fired up to go after kids of immigrants -- they have a remarkable ability to ignore whether they're legal or not.

Oh, yes, and in addition to fucking over immigrants who've gone and used benefits they legally qualify for, the new rule will also fuck over people who endanger America by having health problems:

[The] proposed rule also deems certain health conditions — like mental health disorders, heart disease and cancer — to be among the heavily weighed factors. The proposal states that "an alien is at high risk of becoming a public charge if he or she has a medical condition and is unable to show evidence of unsubsidized health insurance."

It is a Catch-22, said Shawn Fremstad, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Poor immigrants with health conditions must prove that they are insured, but they cannot use the available benefits to enroll.

That's some catch, all right.

The version of the rule being proposed is actually a teensy bit less draconian than the first draft that leaked back in February. That one would have ruled legal status for legal immigrants using an even broader range of benefits they or their kids legally qualify for, like Obamacare subsidies, Head Start education programs, WIC nutritional assistance for newborns and expectant mothers, energy assistance, and even transit vouchers. Politico notes that while the draft proposal released Saturday doesn't target parents whose children have been enrolled in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), it's still possible the final rule might do so.

We'd assume the most horrible measures were stripped out to make the restrictions easier to push through; someone must have pointed out that lots of legal immigrants have American-born kids -- citizens, for now at least -- who qualify for Head Start or CHIP or Obamacare subsidies. May as well save those for a later attempt to tighten the screws, maybe. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated 20 million children -- a tenth of them American citizens -- would have been affected by the more draconian draft; even though the new rule might formally be aimed at a narrower population, expect many more legal immigrants to drop out, just in case. If their kids get really sick, we can just deport 'em.

Not surprisingly, the hands of Stephen Miller and the far-right anti-immigration lobby are all over this. The Times reports Miller "has pushed hard for the new rule during the past several months," and immigration ghoul Mark Krikorian of the nativist "Center for Immigration Studies" is simply over the moon about the chance to recalibrate immigration policy to favor the already well-off:

"This isn't a moral issue," he said. "A Honduran with a sixth-grade education level isn't morally flawed, but he works three jobs and still can't feed his family. Immigrants with low levels of skill are a mismatch for a modern society like ours."

Notice who's to blame when an immigrant works three jobs and still can't support his family? The immigrant. Ain't that a bitch!

Any final rule will will be subject to a 60-day public comment period after the proposal is published in the Federal Register -- that's still a few weeks away, apparently, and immigrants rights groups are gearing up to at least push the regulation away from the worst insanity -- wouldn't be a bad time for you to get in touch with the National Immigration Law Center or the Center for Law and Social Policy for information on how you can help push back against this shit. Even though Russia and Kavanaugh are huge stories right now, literally millions of people need you to stay focused on this as well.

[Politico / NYT / Kaiser Family Foundation / Photo: Mark Nozell at Wikimedia Commons]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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