The U.S. Supreme Court says American taxpayers should not be expected to pay for longterm government benefits for immigrants looking to establish permanent residency here. Wow! How's that for some common sense for a change? 

By a 5-4 vote, the justices overturned a lower court ruling and will allow the Trump administration to begin enforcing new limits on immigrants who are considered likely to become dependent on government benefit programs, or “public charges.” The Department of Homeland Security is expanding a list of factors it will take into consideration in deciding whether those applying for permanent residency might become dependent on taxpayer-funded benefits.

CommonWealth Magazine said the decision could impact a lot of immigrants now residing in Massachusetts: "An estimated 500,0000 immigrant households in Massachusetts could see their path to permanent residency cut off by the measure.' It says, "Under the rule change, immigrants will be denied green cards as a result of the previous or current receipt of Medicaid benefits or food stamps."

The magazine said Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy homeland security secretary, issued a statement praising the Supreme Court ruling: “Self-sufficiency and self-reliance are key American values not to be litigiously dismissed, but to be encouraged and adopted by the next generation of immigrants.” 

The Trump administration has long argued for "merit-based" immigration policies that encourage people with education, skills and the financial means to support themselves to apply for permanent residency. 

A recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies found: 

  • 63 percent of households headed by a non-citizen reported that they used at least one welfare program, compared to 35 percent of native-headed households. 
  • Compared to native households, non-citizen households have much higher use of food programs (45 percent vs. 21 percent for natives) and Medicaid (50 percent vs. 23 percent for natives).

Opponents say the decision could lead many thousands of immigrants in Massachusetts to disenroll from programs for fear of jeopardizing their chance of obtaining a green card. There are several exceptions and exceptions to the new restrictions.

While America will always open its heart to those in need, it cannot afford to be the welfare department for all the world's poor. America needs and welcomes immigrants but since we have limits on how many people we can admit annually, consideration must be given as well to those who can provide for themselves and help this nation to continue to grow and to prosper.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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