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One of Stephen Miller's top priorities for fucking over America's legal immigration system is finally about to take effect, assuming it survives the many lawsuits that will be thrown at it. The new rule would sharply restrict the ability of low-income people to get permanent residency or even temporary visas by screening out virtually all applicants who have ever used federal assistance like Medicaid, food stamps, or public housing. The rule will be published in the Federal Register Wednesday, and then go into effect in October, despite an overwhelming majority of public comments opposing the change.

The rules are an attempt to inject steroids into a relic of the Immigration Act of 1882, which prohibited immigration by anyone deemed likely to become a "public charge" -- that is, likely to become a burden to the taxpayer. That term was never explicitly defined by Congress, so Miller and his allies in the Trump administration decided it should be defined as restrictively as possible, to keep out anyone who's used any of a whole raft of public assistance programs for any amount of time.

Let's emphasize right up front that this is not about undocumented immigrants: This is an attempt to punish legal migrants who legally received benefits that Congress said they legally qualify for.


The Department of Homeland Security published the details of the new rules in an 800-page document today; the gist is that a green card or temporary visa would be denied to any

alien who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months).

So much for the safety net -- let's say someone went through a rough patch and received SNAP (food stamps), public housing, and Medicaid for just four months, then got a job and has been gainfully employed ever since. No green card for you, moocher. US Citizenship and Immigration Services officers would also have broad latitude to decide how other factors might make an applicant look like they could become a "public charge" -- anyone under the age of 18 or over 61 would automatically be considered a likely burden, for instance.

No, there are no provisions that would exclude an oil executive from getting a work visa, no matter how much public welfare their company might receive. They're job creators!

Yr Wonkette has written about this fuck-tussle of a rule previously as it's moved through the federal development grinder. The State Department has already started denying visas using a version of the rules, with thousands of people turned away from entering the US at all -- even to visit.

A couple of the very worst parts of Miller's original dream have been blunted. For instance, while use of Medicaid benefits will count against an applicant, the federal Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will not, and despite our February 2018 headline, neither will Head Start, and neither will the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutritional assistance program. Small mercies.

But don't worry, there's plenty of draconian shit in the rule, aimed at eliminating people for arbitrary reasons. How about cracking down on people who talk funny foreign talk too much? And much much more:

The rule would subject immigrant households who fall below certain income thresholds to the "public charge" test — which would also consider how well applicants speak, read and write English. Under the proposed rule, any diagnosed medical condition that requires extensive medical treatment would also "weigh heavily" in evaluations by caseworkers.

We certainly wouldn't want some dirty foreigner to take up a hospital bed intended for an American poor person who can't afford it either.

The Miller stratagem has already led people to stay away from services that they legally qualify for.

A study in May by the Urban Institute found that more than 13% of adults in immigrant families said they were not participating in public programs such as food stamps and subsidized housing due to concerns that the so-called "public charge" rule would hinder their ability to obtain green cards. The number of immigrants reporting this fear rose to 20.7% among low-income families.

Anticipation of the new rule has even scared away people whose immigration status won't be affected at all:

[The] report by the Urban Institute detailed a "spillover effect" in which both green card holders and U.S. citizens reported avoiding public benefits because of the proposal's expected implementation.

Nearly 15% of immigrants in families in which all members had green cards and 9.3% of adults in families comprised of naturalized U.S. citizens said they did not participate in government assistance programs within the past 12 months due to concerns about the proposed rule's impact on their and their family members' ability to qualify for permanent residency.

No matter what the administration says about bootstraps, the central policy goals are always the same: ramping up fear and anxiety among immigrants, and trying to scare people away from coming to the US in the first place.

The fear and uncertainly also aren't helped at all by shitty reporting: While the new rule won't apply to applications for citizenship, The Washington Post inaccurately said the rule could affect citizenship, as ProPublica reporter Yeganeh Torbati points out. No, it really would not, Torbati notes, citing the Immigrant Legal Resource Center:

So on top of widespread misunderstanding of who and what is affected by the program, lazy reporting will help make the confusion and fear even worse, hooray. That works very nicely with the Trump/Miller goal: Make sure the tired and the poor never get off the boat -- or get on it in the first place -- and punish the hell out of people who have committed the crime of not being wealthy.

Now, who wants an immigration visa for spending half a million dollars on a Kushner condo?

[CBS News / NYT / Vox / Yeganeh Torbati on Twitter]

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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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