American immigration law should ensure immigration helps America – Washington Examiner

Foreign individuals should not be allowed to come to America in order to take advantage of its welfare programs.

This shouldn’t be a controversial statement. Federal law currently reflects this position. The Trump administration has finalized a regulation aimed at better implementing this law. Questions and concerns about the execution of President Trump’s “public charge” rule are fair, but the principle is also sound.

In today’s debates over immigration, we find it necessary to state what should be self-evident: All American laws ought to serve the American people. That means our immigration laws ought to serve the interests of the people who already live here and not necessarily those who don’t already live here.

We believe that most immigration is good for America, culturally and economically. We’ve opposed Trump’s calls to reduce the amount of legal immigration or to discriminate on the basis of religion. We’ve also called for reform of our current laws.

In short, immigration generally helps the U.S., and the laws ought to be changed to increase immigration’s benefits — and also to decrease immigration’s costs.

It is fair to ask would-be-immigrants, in effect, “What do you have to offer us?”

Our country’s ethic is grounded in Judeo-Christian teaching. As a nation, we thus recognize we have a duty to take in refugees: those fleeing war, natural disaster, or persecution. Our duty to refugees, however, does not extend to the many billions of people who could benefit economically from coming to the United States.

Reflecting these sensibilities, federal law has stated we ought not grant entry or citizenship to anyone who “at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge.” This doesn’t mean immigrants can never go on welfare — bad times can strike anyone, after all. But it does mean that we shouldn’t welcome people coming here to get our welfare.

This rule has been interpreted many different ways, because it’s not a straightforward thing. We voluntarily place upon ourselves an obligation to give benefits to children, who didn’t make the choice to come here. By extension, we don’t deny health and nutrition benefits to pregnant women. We can’t morally deny an immigrant emergency medical care, even if he or she can’t pay for it.

But Trump wants to broaden the definition of “public charge,” and he wants to tighten its enforcement. Some conservatives, including our friends at the Wall Street Journal editorial board, worry understandably about giving bureaucrats too much discretion to determine who is likely to become a public charge. This rule will need to be executed carefully, and it may be that as written, it is too vulnerable for abuse.

But it’s worth stating, without hedging, that the principle here is correct: American immigration law exists to ensure that immigration helps America.

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