On Monday, the Trump Administration announced a new rule that will disqualify immigrants who receive public benefits—such as Medicaid, housing assistance and food stamps—from getting green cards.
President Trump claims that this new regulation is “[t]o protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient.“ In other words, he does not want immigrants to benefit from public resources that are meant for citizens and paid by American taxpayers.
The new plan will significantly affect immigrants with disabilities, who are more likely than non-disabled immigrants to be on the poverty line and use these public benefits for survival.
Immigrants who are already on the road to be lawful citizens will also be affected by the rule if they are perceived as “public charges.” A person’s immigration status will be at risk even if he or she has applied for one or more of public programs.
People with disabilities often need help with daily activities, such as dressing and bathing, grocery shopping, meal prepping and commuting. Medicaid is the only program that covers all of those services; private insurers don’t cover community living supports.
As a president who openly mocks Americans with disabilities and plans to cut back on Medicaid, Trump probably did not think to consider how his new plan would unfairly target immigrants with disabilities.
Although many current Americans with disabilities would argue that the ADA lacks in many aspects, at the very minimum, this law gives individuals with disabilities the right to fight for freedom. Many of the countries that immigrants with disabilities flee from don’t have this fundamental right in place. One of the goals of ADA’s passage was to encourage other countries to follow suit.
However, depriving individuals with disabilities from these basic human rights is contradictory to ADA’s mission. Trump’s new rule will leave immigrants with disabilities with no viable option. Most of them came to the U.S. with the hopes of accessing support and resources that were not available in their homelands.
Children of immigrants—even though they might’ve been born in the U.S.—will also suffer from the new policy, especially if one or both of their parents have disabilities. If parents are denied access to the programs that provide shelter and food, then their children will also suffer the consequences. In the worst-case scenario, the children will be forcibly separated from their parents and put into foster care.
Having a disability should not be considered as a burden or denial to the right to live in a safe environment. However, the subtext of Trump’s policy reinforces the concept of disability being a public burden. The enactment of the new rule will wrongfully deprive individual with disabilities from the rights and opportunities that are granted to their non-disabled peers.