Jack Semancik is a political science junior and Mustang News opinion columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Throughout our relatively brief history as a republic, our country has always come up with creative ways to exclude and limit immigration, especially for non-whites.
Even the first immigration policy that this country ever enacted, the Naturalization Act of 1790, limited immigration to “free white[s].” This was passed a mere two years after the ratification of the current United States Constitution – and before the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791.
And that pattern continues today. In January, The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision along partisan lines, voted to reinstate the Trump Administration’s “Public Charge” rule that would allow the U.S. government to deny visas and green cards to those that use public benefits. These benefits include food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid – essentially anything that would be a cost to the public in the eyes of the Trump Administration. Sure, it’s disappointing to see the courts validate a rule like this, but it’s not surprising.
Let’s not beat around the bush here: This policy is, at its minimum, economic discrimination.
It is obvious to anyone with any semblance of comprehension how this policy will be enforced, and our country will be worse off because of it. Green card and visa holders are legal residents in the United States. Green card holders and many visa holders pay income taxes (although this is subject to residency status, visa type and specific tax treaties between the United States and various foreign countries). All of them pay sales taxes which — although it doesn’t fund welfare programs directly — fund the administrative costs of these programs, split half-and-half between the states and the federal government.
Tax policy aside, these people should not have to somehow prove their worthiness to our country to be entitled to welfare. It is not a radical idea to say that all people are deserving of housing and food security, but yet it feels more radical by the day. Someone’s ability to afford housing, food and medical care should not be a requirement for immigration. Welfare is a key part of integrating people into society. These are people who are residents of this country, and we have an obligation to them and their needs. In the words of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “The American Dream isn’t a private club with a cover charge.”
This is a dramatically cruel measure by this administration to curb the legal immigration of poor people to the United States. There is no other way of saying this.
Not since the 1924 Immigration Act was replaced in 1965 have we seen such a horrific and obvious attempt at deterring immigration from poor countries. In light of the administration’s recent addition of six countries – Nigeria, Tanzania, Myanmar, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan and Eritrea, in order of population – to an already clearly prejudiced list of African and Asian nations facing severe travel restrictions, there is no doubt in my mind how this new “public charge” rule will be enforced: through blatant discrimination of poor immigrants from any nation seen as undesirable in the eyes of President Donald Trump.
We need to stop pretending that we are some shining city on a hill. We are not. We are exactly what we pretend to despise: a land ancient in its ideals, accepting only of those who are wealthy enough to afford it and white enough to benefit from it. Today, much as we have always been, we are the storied pomp.