Mother with child - Nicholas Githiri / PexelsAmerica prides itself on being a land of opportunity. For generations, immigrants and refugees – including some of America’s biggest success stories – have come to the U.S. with little or nothing and built their fortunes here. Assuming that anyone who can’t pass these tests is bound to become a burden on society is pure bigotry, not based on actual evidence.

This is why 266,000 people submitted comments about the planned rule change, overwhelmingly opposing it: immigrants, community advocates, service providers, business owners, elected officials and concerned citizens. They shared their families’ own immigration stories, explained how “safety net” programs had gotten them through difficult times in their own lives, and argued vigorously for a more compassionate and welcoming America. 

The income expectations are absurdly high. The median household income in the U.S. is only $61,372 – so only immigrants with incomes higher than half of U.S. households can avoid close scrutiny as potential “public charges.” In Massachusetts, 30% of the population is below 250% of the FPL, and 15% is below 125% of the FPL. (Among immigrant families, it’s 50% and 27%, respectively.) Notably, two adults working 40 hours per week each at $15 per hour would jointly earn only $62,400.

In response to public comments, the Trump administration made small adjustments to the rule – most notably, removing Medicare Part D subsidies for seniors and Medicaid for pregnant women and anyone under 21 from the list of benefits to be considered. But the new rule still represents a fundamental change in how the U.S. decides who is welcome here, with a disproportionate impact on immigrants of color. The change could decimate family-based migration and shut out many immigrants simply for being working-class. A related policy has already done significant harm.