Trump Administration Targets Immigrants Using Food Stamps and Medicaid

The Trump administration is proposing a new regulation that would make it extremely difficult for many immigrants to come to the U.S. or receive green cards if they’re considered likely to use public benefits like food stamps or Medicaid. The draft regulation was unveiled Saturday and has been widely condemned for its cruelty and potential impact on millions of U.S.-born children of immigrant parents. We speak with Marielena Hincapié, executive director at the National Immigration Law Center.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As we look at the White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller’s role in the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policy, we turn now to a widely condemned proposal by the Trump administration that would make it extremely difficult for many immigrants to come to the U.S. or receive green cards if they are considered likely to use public benefits like food stamps or Medicaid.

AMY GOODMAN: The draft regulation was unveiled Saturday. It’s drawing protests. For more, we go to Lake Arrowhead, California by Democracy Now! video stream to Marielena Hincapié, executive director of National Immigration Law Center. Marielena, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you focus on this latest proposal by the Trump administration, after last week they floated the proposal to cap the number of refugees to an all-time low that we haven’t seen like this in decades in this country?

MARIELENA HINCAPIÉ: Yes, thank you. Good morning, Amy and Juan. Yeah, this is just the latest radical extremist anti-immigrant attack against families by the Trump administration, and as you mentioned, it has been drafted by Stephen Miller. He has talked about this being the issue that they believe is going to excite their base before the November elections.

What this will result in is basically an expansion of the public charge definition, which has been used in our history to exclude people like Jewish refugees, including Catholics from Ireland and Italy. And here we are concerned about this proposed rule, which could affect millions of people in our country—children, their families—who are basically trying to make ends meet.

How we live our life and how we contribute to our families and our communities should be how we are judged in this country, rather than what we look like and how much money we have. This is basically a wealth test about who belongs in this country and who can come to this country.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Marielena, could you be specific in terms of what the regulations would entail? Because as you mentioned, there has been a public charge stipulation that a person cannot have more than a majority of their income from government sources, but now this is being changed to almost any kind of support from government sources. Can you talk about that?

MARIELENA HINCAPIÉ: That’s right, Juan, yes. So for decades now, the public charge definition is if you are an immigrant and you primarily depend on two types of programs, either long-term institutional programs or cash assistance. Here, they’re trying to expand this to a range of programs, including food stamps, including housing supports like a Section 8 housing voucher, including the low-income subsidy for Medicare Part D.

So again, we have 447 pages that we’re still analyzing. The text of the rule hasn’t been formally publicized yet on the Federal Register. When it does, which we expect to be any day now, a 60-day comment period will begin, and we urge everyone who’s listening and watching your show today to please go to which is the campaign website that we’ve set up, and we’ll have templates, and everybody can comment on this. So physicians, psychologists, educators, state and local leaders, but especially immigrants who can tell their story.

People like me—when we came in the 1970s, we relied on food stamps when my parents were laid off in between factory jobs. We would not be here, either. And I know that my story is the American story and that there are thousands and hundreds of thousands of people who can submit comments, and hopefully we can stop this in its tracks.

AMY GOODMAN: Marielena Hincapié, we thank you so much for being with us, and of course we’re going to have you back on to continue to talk about these issues and these regulations as they unfold. Marielena Hincapié is executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the sentencing of Bill Cosby. We will talk about it in 30 seconds.