Late Breaking: The Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule Change

AHA Session 75A
Saturday, January 4, 2020: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Metropolitan Ballroom West (Small) (Sheraton New York, Second Floor)
Torrie Hester, Saint Louis University
Mae Ngai, Columbia University
Stephen Pitti, Yale University
Elliott Young, Lewis and Clark College
Hidetaka Hirota, Sophia University
The Audience

Session Abstract

Since the Department of Homeland Security announced changes to the public charge rule in immigration policyon August 12, 2019 (the “Department Rule”), proponents have sought to justify the changes on the grounds that a sweeping definition of public charge is rooted in American history. Historical sources tell a very different story. In reality, even during the most xenophobic periods of our history, the United States has never applied public charge standards as broad as those the Department Rule seeks to apply. To the contrary, the concept of public charge has always been applied rarely, and only in extreme circumstances involving dependence on the government to subsist. The exceptions to this history of narrow application are not a matter of pride, but of blatant discrimination prompted by the desire to exclude and deport different groups – such as Jews, Mexicans, Asians, the Irish, Italians, and members of LGBTQ communities – in the past.

The members of this roundtable will comment on the history of the public charge rule and the eight legal challenges making their way through the lower courts.It will also explore the impact of the rule change—which is projected to affect tens of millions of immigrants and U.S. citizens—as well as the administration’s racist motivations for introducing such a dramatic change to immigration policy.

This roundtable discussion will bring together experts in U.S. immigration history, all of whom have over the past year contributed to the public discussion of the rule change, the legal process behind the policy, and the legal challenges that as of Oct. 2019, led to injunctions restricting implementation of DHS’s revised public charge rule. Participants on this late-breaking session proposal have published op-eds about the Trump administration’s rule change. Mae Ngai, Elliott Young, Hidetaka Hirota, Torrie Hester (along with Lucy Salyer, Mary Mendoza, and Deirdre Moloney) commented in the Federal Register on the proposed rule change, and are working on an amicus brief for the next round of legal challenges. Stephen Pitti has written an expert declaration for one of the federal lawsuits attempting to stop its implementation, arguing that racial animus drives the change.

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