What is a public charge?

Off the Record Podcast Excerpts
August 9, 2018
Intro Excerpt

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MALANEY: Today on the pod, ordinary guest and resident immigration expert DW is here to talk about the policy floating around the White House to deny legal immigrants citizenship for their lawful use of assistance programs.

DW: literally your resident immigration expert. I feel like I should start charging you expert fees here

MALANEY: I actually consider you more like a primary source, that's how I pitched you to my producer when you first came on to talk about immigration issues.

DW: I would like you to refer to me as your primary source in your wedding vows.

MALANEY: Yea... my primary source of frustration. But before people @ me, yes somebody did cancel last minute, but they rescheduled.

DW: You know you act like I am just a convenient filler but people always say I should be on your show more.

MALANEY: Well you don't have a twitter so how would you know?

DW: I mean, I just assume

MALANEY: For everyone who lives in reality and not DW-land, next week we will return to our regularly scheduled special guests.

DW: That’s some real shade about your almost wife who had to move from the couch to the dining room to do this.

MALANEY: I know you struggled to fit this into your day, almost wife. You know I am starting to wonder if this marriage is even going to happen since we can’t agree on our last name and we are cutting it kind of close here, we have two weeks to decide this.

DW: I like the combination option and we can make it “Sansman.” Like a last name that is also very literal.

MALANEY: That's a big no from me. We’re probably going to hyphenate but we both agree that we hate the way it looks.

DW: It’s actually way harder to do this last name thing than I thought it was going to be.

MALANEY: I think you just assumed---

DW: I did not just assume you were going to take my last name, I actually thought we weren’t going to do anything with it. But we have to decide really quickly.

MALANEY: My name doesn’t sound good with your last name, but your name sounds good with my last name. Just saying.

DW: Other people have also said that, but I don’t want to create opportunities for me to be called DWW, also it’s a little more complicated than that. But I think the fair option is we either both change or neither of us change. Also, it is such a hassle to update all of our stuff when you do a name change, I just don’t know that it is worth it.

MALANEY: [overly dramatic gasp] wow!

DW: Okay okay, calm down I didn’t mean it like that. I just mean like, you know, practically speaking, I mean it’s just such a headache.

MALANEY: Well I would take a headache for you out of love.

DW: Aha, well now is your chance to take that headache from me, so...

MALANEY: PFFT. Okay okay, there is actually something we are supposed to be talking about.

DW: You know before this started we were having a really serious debate on which bread maker we should get and I thought you were going to open with that, didn't realize I was going to be put on the spot about this name change thing.

MALANEY: Guys, a word of advice, you always buy a quality bread maker.

DW: unless you are only going to use it three times a year like all the other space consuming cooking gadgets we have then you can buy the regular run of the mill bread maker, or just continue to buy pre-made bread at you know… stores.

MALANEY: For somebody who loves bread and being right you are very wrong about this.

DW: I really can’t imagine that the bread tastes that much different or better than bread from a bakery that is made by professionals!

MALANEY: Okay, I am not continuing this debate with you right now, but I am gonna time stamp where you said this and I am going to play it back to you after you try the bread I make in the fancy bread maker and after you tell me how much you love it, which you will and then you will want me to make it all the time, and you are going to come back on here and tell everyone how wrong you were.

DW: but if I’m right

MALANEY: you’re not

DW: but

MALANEY: No. We are on a new top--

DW: I mean I am just saying that if you use it three times it will be like one hundred and fifty dollars per loaf of bread… that is probably just going to be okay...

MALANEY: can you…

DW: alright alright, Marie Antoinette, God.


MALANEY: Are you ready now?

DW: I am always ready! I was ready when I walked in here except for when I left to get water and then came back and left again to get a blanket. But I've definitely been ready since then.

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Public Charge Excerpt

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MALANEY: So we may be hearing this term “public charge” used against immigrants who utilize public benefits in the upcoming months. So can you briefly, and DW, I mean briefly and on point here explain what that is?

DW: So a public charge is what I would argue is a derogatory term from the 1960s when the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) was passed that tries to keep out poor or undesirable immigrants, immigrants who the government believe will be totally dependent on state assistance for surrival.

MALANEY: so give me your tired, but not too poor…

DW: Exactly. I know this is off topic but alongside the offensive term public charge which is still in the law, another term used to keep out undesirable immigrants was “sexual deviant.” And you may think that meant people who committed sex crimes but actually what it meant was gay people. And in the 70s and 80s people were sent visa denial letters that stated “your visa was denied because the United States does not grant admission to faggots,” on official government letterhead signed by INS workers. And that’s also what I wrote about in law school when I was on a journal because in 1989 a big asylum case came out that recognized sexual orientation as an eligible ground for asylum but the INA still prohibited the legal entry of gay people as sexual deviants and because the laws conflicted, gay people could only legally enter the US via asylum. So, just some useful gay immigration history for you all.

MALANEY: When I said on point, I definitely meant you should brag about papers you wrote almost 30 years ago.

DW: you guys can’t see this but I am the human version of the shrug emoji right now.

MALANEY: so just a shrugging human

DW: but the shrug emoji has like an attitude you just can’t convey the right way with just a shrug

MALANEY: somebody tweeted at me and said, when you are on the show I should change the name to “off the topic”

DW: You act like it is my fault but real--

MALANEY: it is universally agreed that you are the one who gets us off topic, e.g., bread maker debate

DW: alright, alright, okay. I thought that was useful information for people to know about immigration history.

MALANEY: anyways why this term is coming up is that the Administration has decided that if an eligible immigrant used any form of state or federal public assistance that they were qualified to use, they are going to bar them from obtaining citizenship because they will now consider the use of any state or federal assistance that someone is a public charge.

DW: Yes. . . and that would affect about 20 million people so it's a big deal. The reason you are going to be hearing public charge or other derogatory terms about legal immigrants during the midterms especially is because the super racist, fascist, piece of trash Stephen Miller who for some reason is directing immigration policy at the White House, has taken a policy from the suggestion of the “Center for Immigration Studies” to target legal immigration this way. A person who is deemed a public charge is not eligible to adjust from an LPR to a citizen.

And just a major point here, and please imagine clapping hands emojis between each word here, undocumented immigrants to do not qualify for federal assistance programs and are banned from most state assistance programs. So when we talk about immigrants who are eligible and use these public assistance programs, we are only talking about lawfully present immigrants on non-temporary visas. So usually that’s people who are awaiting to naturalize. Of course there some very limited exceptions like school lunch and breakfast programs for children, and emergency disaster funds that help people regardless of immigration status but for the context of this issue we are only discussing lawfully present immigrants who are deemed qualified by their state and or a federal agency to utilize public assistance who are now being penalized for it.

MALANEY: and that distinction is actually important because a lot of people they believe that immigrants who use public assistance programs are undocumented but really that’s not the case as they are not eligible, but green card holders are eligible after they have been lawful residents for five years. Also in this policy, it says that if the children of the applicant for citizenship use the benefits they can deny the parent citizenship as a public charge.

DW: Right, yeah it’s pretty fucked up. So, again, they aren’t tricking the system or anything. Denying someone citizenship because they are a public charge, that’s not like, I mean it’s not used that often to deny an otherwise eligible person the chance to naturalize. This is the government’s attempt to curb legal migration. You may also hear a term “chain migration” thrown a around a lot. That’s a slur. Please don’t use it, and correct people who do use it and call it out as the insult that it is. Family unification is a high priority for immigration status and naturalization, chain migration is family unification. So when people say they are against chain migration, what they are saying is they don’t want these people to bring more of their people and you should be repulsed by that.

MALANEY: It really does go to show that these tough on immigration stances by the administration are not about law enforcement they are always about racism, xenophobia, and stirring up that Trump base for elections.

DW: Right, and notice how these things always come up around election time… not a coincidence. I do want to point out another thing that is really important, about this group I mentioned earlier, the “Center for Immigration Studies,” they are truly revolting, and they drafted this provision. The Center for Immigration Studies does not speak for immigration advocates, they are an anti-immigration group, they aim to reduce immigration in all forms and the number of immigrants in the US and if your representative starts quoting them at you or on twitter or reposts their fake bullshit stats, call them out as the hate group that they are. And I am not exaggerating that they are a hate group this group was founded by this guy John Tanton who advocates for white supremacy and eugenics. The fact that their policy is even being read by the White House is terrifying, their work is not legitimate and their studies have been disproven repeatedly by countless organizations.

MALANEY: Even the name gives you pause.

DW: It is a race baiting myth that immigrants abuse the system, in reality, they are about 30% less likely than citizens of similar age and income to use public assistance. And remember they have to qualify for that assistance just like anyone else, and they have to wait five years to even apply. But this Administration is so blatantly disgusting that if an immigrant uses any benefit, even slightly depends on one for one of their children, even a disabled child, the Administration wants those immigrants to be considered public charges and deny them the citizenship they otherwise would qualify for. Also, this would affect people who gained asylum and are refugees and qualify for our refugee funds and assistance program and are waiting to adjust their status as citizens, or an lawful resident that used

MALANEY: you never miss an opportunity to bring up asylum

DW: Never. I am a little disappointed this isn’t a podcast the ACLU’s lawsuit against the AG on the due process violation of blanket denials of asylum seekers who are fleeing domestic violence and gang violence, but this is important too..

MALANEY: Is there a remedy here? Or do they just get to do this until they are no longer in power?

DW: Like most things in immigration, remedies require congressional action and until congress says you can't disqualify a lawfully permanent resident from obtaining citizenship because they qualified for and utilized public assistance they can attempt to do this. I'm sure there will be suits filed because the legislative intent of banning someone deemed a public charge was a person who was primarily dependent on assistance, not a person who was partially or slightly dependent on assistance like many Americans.

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