Not Your Grandfather's Immigration Rules

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on November 20, 2012

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to get on Uncle Sam's dole."

Okay, that's not exactly how Emma Lazarus penned it, but it's effectively where our immigration system is today.

The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services has transformed America's immigration program into a direct line to dependency. The Daily Caller reports on a federal website and immigrant guide that puts new arrivals on a path to public charge.

The Daily Caller says about

The DHS page offers links to government websites that explain how to access benefits including food stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, Medicare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the "official website with information on all available federal benefit programs".

USCIS also helpfully provides immigrants with a printed guidebook, "Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants". It contains similar information about the myriad welfare programs available to foreigners.

The news report quotes a Senate Budget Committee staffer, who notes that such government information sources assume that immigrants will require government assistance. "One of the important points about the legal problems with the DHS site and materials is not only the issue of immigrant eligibility, but the fact that U.S. immigration officials are obviously granting visas to those they believe will and should be receiving government assistance. … Immigration law is supposed to operate so that individuals at risk for being placed on public assistance are not admitted in the first place."

From America's earliest colonial days, through the Founding Era, until well into the 20th century, public charge doctrine safeguarded American citizens, states, municipalities, and the federal government against immigrants who couldn't or wouldn't be self-sustaining and productive here. Unelected immigration judges have weakened this time-honored protection, but Congress beefed up public charge policies through 1996 welfare reform and immigration laws.

If immigration is truly to serve the national interest, we would do well to restore clear expectations for prospective and new immigrants. If America grants you the priceless privilege of becoming part of our society, that privilege comes with conditions. Those include that you must be able to earn enough to carry your own weight. No welfare, no taxpayer subsidies, no refundable tax credits, no dependency of any type. If you want to live here, you have to understand that with freedom comes responsibility. That includes personal responsibility to earn your own way. That's the American way … or at least it was the American way in place when the Great Wave arrived. If it was good enough for grandpa, it's good enough for today's immigrants.