Editor: This is another good guest commentary (two others in the last week may be found by clicking here). We welcome guest writers because a) the issue is too large for me to cover it all, and b) some great writers and investigators are developing across the country and they need to be heard! Emphasis below is mine.
REFUGEES AND THE “PUBLIC CHARGE”
by Bob Enos (Willmar, MN)
The tradition of immigration in America historically contains a concept known as the “public charge”. As the purpose of immigration in America was purely to build the American nation, all new entrants have been expected to “sing for their supper”. That is, we were expected to take advantage of the opportunities America provides to build a better life, while not becoming a burden to our fellow Americans.
Today, the public charge concept continues to be an element of federal immigration law, but it has been watered down. It also provides exceptions to certain classes of immigrants.
First, there are myriad forms of taxpayer-funded assistance that our federal legislators have decreed are not really burdensome to taxpayers after all. They include: Section 8 housing; health insurance; food stamps; child care; public schools; and institutionalization.
These non-cash public assistance programs can and often do exceed the low wages that unskilled workers earn, even full-time workers.
Second, under Section 213A of the federal Immigration and Naturalization Act, both refugees and asylum seekers are actually excused and exempted from any federal requirement to be self-supporting! This means that, unlike other immigrant classes who are required to earn a livelihood in order to avoid possible deportation, the refugee has no such worry.
In short, if a refugee is deported, it will NEVER be due to the financial burden s/he places upon the rest of us!
As pressure builds for comprehensive immigration reform, legislators in Washington MUST address (a) eliminating the exclusion and exemption of refugees and asylum seekers from the public charge test, and (b) the expanding the definition of public charge burdens to include not only cash welfare payment, but non-cash assistance as well.
Let me know if you have something you wish to share by responding in a comment to this post. I’ll contact you and tell you how to send your short submission!