A Poorer, Hungrier, Sicker, Weaker Union Under Trump Plan

Immigration Proposal Would Worsen Social Problems, Advocates Charge

February 1, 2018, Washington, D.C.—During his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump presented a radical proposal to fundamentally alter the nation’s immigration system, taking it from one that values family unity to one biased in favor of particular skill sets, educational levels, and countries of origin. This proposal comes as Congress continues to debate how to deal with the crisis created for nearly 800,000 Dreamers as a result of the president’s decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The Trump Administration has previously considered administrative changes that would target low-income immigrant families. The State of the Union address echoed a prejudiced narrative that has driven the president’s anti-immigrant agenda: that the wealthy are better Americans than those of modest means. That same narrative also drove the tax legislation with its giveaways to the richest Americans as well as efforts to undermine access to health care and other help for everyday Americans.

Trump’s efforts to equate wealth with merit are out-of-step with voters, according to a new poll. The January survey by Red Oak Strategic for the National Immigration Law Center found that a majority of voters support family-based immigration and that likely voters favor continued immigration from “disadvantaged countries like Haiti, Ghana and others” by a two-to-one margin (59 percent to 29 percent).

And this narrative is equally out-of-step with reality. Immigrant families pay billions in taxes to help support all government programs, and immigrant workers and families are crucial to the success of important community services such as health care and education. Sadly, the administration’s divisive and inaccurate rhetoric has already compromised critical supports for underserved communities and worsened racial disparities. For example, pediatric health providers serving low-income Latino communities have cited immigration concerns as responsible for dramatic declines in health care access, including for citizen children.

These immigration policies that disrupt families, limit access to health and nutrition, or restrict immigration based on wealth or income would weaken American communities by worsening a range of social problems.

“Ensuring immigrants have access to federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP, is critical to their health and economic self-sufficiency,” said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research & Action Center. “Bad policy and overwrought rhetoric that threatens or instills fear in eligible people from accessing these programs will lead to worse education and health and more hunger and poverty in this country.”

The anti-poverty Center for Law and Social Policy and the health care advocacy group Community Catalyst released the following joint statement by CLASP Executive Director Olivia Golden:

“We have already heard reports that immigrant families who are afraid to seek services they or their U.S. citizen children need are disenrolling from critical programs and are afraid to continue treatment for serious illnesses. We will continue to fight back against proposals that threaten the health and wellbeing of immigrants and their families and communities.”

“These proposals rest on dangerous and wrong-headed stereotypes of immigrants and of the role that health care, nutrition, and other supports play in a strong America. They also devalue the contributions of low-income workers, students, and parents—whether born in the U.S. or abroad—compared to the wealthiest. In stark contrast to the vision expressed in the State of the Union, we believe that our future is brighter when families can stay together and everyone can have their essential needs met. We all get sick, and we all face adversity at times – whether you were born in America or immigrated from Haiti or Norway.”

“In unison with concerned leaders all over America, we stand opposed to the president’s dangerous, discriminatory and misguided immigration proposals. We urge Congress to do its job and focus on passing a clean Dream Act to provide DACA recipients and other young immigrants the stability they and their families need. Then we can get on to the important business of building a future where all children can learn, parents can work, families grow strong, and we all have what we need to contribute to our full potential.”