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  • The new rule will reject applicants for temporary or permanent visas for failing to meet income standards or for receiving public assistance like food stamps, Medicaid or housing.

    The new rule will reject applicants for temporary or permanent visas for failing to meet income standards or for receiving public assistance like food stamps, Medicaid or housing. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 August 2019

Critics have decried the effort to limit immigration to lower-income people as an affront to the U.S. ideals on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

The United States government's plan to limit access to citizenship and permanent residence for migrants with low economic resources undermines democracy and penalizes parents for seeking help to feed their children, migrant and Latino advocacy groups said Tuesday.

RELATED:
US To Deny Visas to Legal Immigrants for Being Too Poor

"This illegal rule is just another attempt to vilify immigrants," San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement. The city of San Francisco and nearby Santa Clara County have both filed a lawsuit against the administration on Tuesday to stop it from taking effect.

"The final rule rejects the longstanding, existing definition of public charge, and attempts to redefine it to include even minimal use of a much wider range of non-cash benefits," said the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

It "will worsen the health and well-being of the counties' residents, increase risks to the public health, undermine the counties' health and safety-net systems, and inflict significant financial harm," the lawsuit added.

The plaintiffs claim the new rule violates the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 by contradicting the longstanding definition of public charge as a person "primarily" dependent on public assistance for survival.

Critics have decried the effort to limit legal migration for lower-income people affront to the U.S. ideals highlighted on the Statue of Liberty that reads, "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

Also, the new law would split families, undermining migration laws to prioritize family unification; misapplies the intent of Congress on the description of self-sufficiency of migrants; and runs contrary to the statutes governing SNAP, also known as food stamps. 

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) also said they would sue, saying the rule was racially motivated. The state attorney generals of California and New York threatened to sue as well.

“Basically, it is penalizing children, access to food for children of immigrant families with few resources,” Isaias Guerrero, an activist with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), told EFE.

The initiative likewise represents an attack on the democratic system that “has created these programs to help families get ahead,” he said.

Cecilia Muñoz, vice president for Public Interest Technology and Local Initiatives at New America, said the Trump administration was “using policy to eliminate the eligibility for many of those who typically obtain visas and are successful in the United States.”

While Andrew Selee, president of the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute (MPI), said that policies toward immigrants will have an impact on the future of the U.S. economy.

“This country has always benefited from the flow of people from all over the world. It’s a central part of the innovation, of the economic dynamism of this country, of the labor force,” he said during the presentation of an MPI report, “Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy.”

The rule is intended to scare migrants away from using public benefits to which they are legally entitled, experts agree, as a study by Boundless found it could eliminate more than half of visa applicants.

A 2018 study by MPI found that 69 percent of already established migrants had at least one negative factor against them under the administration's wealth test, while just 39 percent had one of the heavily weighted positive factors.

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