The Epitaph

The Ripple Effect: Immigrants are facing ever-growing barriers

By Aishwarya Jayadeep

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Immigrants who make use of public benefits may now be denied green cards, according to new rules drawn up by Trump administration officials. Those who continue doing so could be labeled a “public charge,” disqualifying them from contention for a green card.

In the past, only people who make a majority of their income from government cash assistance has been considered a public charge by the U.S. government, but this new legislation casts an even wider net. From housing assistance to Medicare Part D’s low-cost prescription drug program, an immigrant who is struggling now is, essentially, unwelcome to this country.

Yes, not content with targeting illegal immigrants, the administration has made further undisguised moves against legal immigration itself. While the rule will not affect those who make an income 15 percent or less under the poverty line, it will discourage immigrants from seeking permanent residency, as a whole, out of fear. In fact, according to NPR, people have already started leaving health and public benefits programs out of worry about their immigration statuses.

It’s another tumble down the dangerous path of denying “non-Americans” basic rights. Better access to healthcare, food, and the like — or rather, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — can all seemingly be exchanged for the mere privilege of staying in the country.

Indeed, this is no immigration crackdown; this is just another step in the progression of anti-foreigner hatred, all the way to the president’s “America First” rhetoric. In reality, the idea that immigrants are more likely to be burdens or public charges is largely unfounded, its only basis lying in racist ideas.

To begin with, according to the Los Angeles Times, the percentage of immigrants in the United States who received benefits in 2013 versus the percentage of American-born citizens who do so are almost the same, with an average difference of 0.45 percent.

If this disparity is so insubstantial, then, the question remains as to where, exactly, this misconception comes from. Granted, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies where research is in favor of lowered immigration rates, has an answer: “Immigrants with low levels of skill are a mismatch for a modern society like ours.”

Yes, the concept that those who are “backwards” and unskilled should not be allowed to stay in the country has long been espoused by those against immigration. But that argument reeks of classism as well as racism, attempting to keep those who, perhaps, didn’t have the opportunity for further education from pursuing any more. Indeed, that is another one of the driving forces behind the new legislation, and behind the long-lasting rhetoric: that certain people should be kept “in the place” — that place being far beneath, and far less privileged.

And when those seeming privileges are, in fact, basic things like food and prescription medicine, those people are being abandoned entirely, as though they have to choose between living and staying in the United States.

Is America obligated to help spin the wheels of progress for those who hail from other countries? Perhaps not entirely. But is America obligated to give, at the very least, the same aid it gives its own, “real” Americans to its stunning array of immigrants? Absolutely. Financial struggle should not be as much of a barrier to immigrants seeking a better life as it is today. Something is off about the current picture, and the clue lies at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

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About the Writer
Aishwarya Jayadeep, Editor in Chief

Aishwarya, in her third year on staff and her last year at HHS, is one of the editors in chief of The Epitaph. If not writing — whether jotting down...

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