On Friday, February 21, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trump administration's new "public charge" rule . This new policy targets immigrants who are "likely at any time to become a public charge," meaning that any immigrants that might be considered likely to seek out public benefits, such as food stamps or Medicaid, may have more difficulty obtaining a green card. Current legal immigrants who are looking to become citizens are also discouraged from using public benefits.
The policy first drew attention and widespread criticism after Ken Cuccinelli, director of US Citizenship and Immigration Service, stated his interpretation of the poem on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in an interview . Critics of the policy took issue with immigration being regulated on the basis of applicants' wealth, income, and education, as well as any history of receiving government aid or benefits. Many of these critics refer to the policy as a "wealth test" for immigrants, especially for immigrants of color.
At the core of this new policy is the intention to limit immigration as a whole as well as make immigration and citizenship much more conditional and "merit" based. Judging immigrants based on whether or not they may use public benefits implies that these immigrants will actually be judged on their wealth. The possibility of someone being denied a green card on the basis of wealth only furthers the idea that some immigrants are somehow more "deserving" of living in the United States. This view of immigrants as "deserving" or "non-deserving" is extremely harmful and can even become dehumanizing in the way that value is assigned to these people. Immigrants are always held to some higher standard, being treated as if they must make some great contribution to the country to "deserve" residence or citizenship. In general, the policy is simply unfair to immigrants, considering that there are plenty of natural-born citizens using public benefits who are not judged in the same way.
The "public charge" rule is just another way in which the Trump administration is seeking to limit immigration as well as discriminate against certain immigrants. At its core, the policy discriminates against and can be degrading to lower-income immigrants.