The Classism of the Trump Administration’s New Guidelines on Legal Immigrants

Last week, it was announced that the Trump administration would have a new regulation, called a “public charge rule,” where (from my understanding) someone applying for admission to the United States or someone who is looking for a change in residency status could be denied their request if they are deemed as likely to be a “public charge” in the future.[1] In other words, if the applicant is deemed to be likely to need some public benefit in the future, such as food stamps, then their application would be denied under the new guidelines.

Critics of the law have deemed this law anti-legal immigration, and those critics are right. Some critics have also deemed that this is anti-poor people, and they are right. However, there is one big word that must be used to describe this rule, a word I don’t seem to hear at all.

That word is classist. Yep, this policy is classist, and blatantly so.

Classism is “prejudice and discrimination based on class,”[2] according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Class is “a group sharing the same economic or social status.”[3] Therefore, a set of guidelines that punishes people for being poor is classist. A rule that keeps people from obtaining green cards or U.S. citizenship because they are deemed as poor enough that they are likely to need Medicaid in the future, which is what these guidelines do, is classist. A rule is classist when it is defended by a Trump administration official by saying, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”[4] The rule is classist, and the defense of the rule is also classist.

And yet, it seems like few people, Republicans, Democrats, or people outside the political system, have actually gone as far as to say that it is classist or even mention the word classism. As I’m writing this, I did a Google Search for “classism Trump administration” within the last 24 hours (I wrote this about 24 hours after the rule was announced) and only found five pages of search results. It’s as if classism itself is not really on the radars of that many people.

Given the fact that the Trump administration’s recent action, it’s time to put classism on the radar, learn about it, and call it out for what it is. Republican and Democratic leaders may be hesitant to call out classism, let alone call it out for what it is, but that should not keep us from being frank about classism and classist policies.


[1] You can find the original source of the rule here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2019-17142.pdf. Alternatively, if you just want to read a summary of the rule, you can read the BBC’s summary here: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49323610

[2] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/classism

[3] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/class

[4] https://www.npr.org/2019/08/13/750726795/immigration-chief-give-me-your-tired-your-poor-who-can-stand-on-their-own-2-feet

6 Replies to “The Classism of the Trump Administration’s New Guidelines on Legal Immigrants”

  1. Hello Brendan. tRump and crew , like so many in congress now, are all wealthy and very wealthy. They have no clue as to what daily life for most people is like. Remember Bush Sr not understanding check out scanners as he never did his own shopping. tRump is on record saying that only the wealthy deserve respect and he doesn’t think poor people are really people, at least not like his kind are people. Remember Steven Mnuchin’s wife going off on the poor people, and claiming entitlement because she pays more taxes than the poor do? This was over all the free trips they were taking on taxpayer expense. They have no clue how their attitudes of thinking everything should be given to them is seen by the average person in the US, most of whom are just above the poverty line or close to it. Even working income / middle class are struggling. What this policy really says is if you are an average income person in the US you shouldn’t be here as you could be a drain a few dollars from the wealthy. This is about how they see all of us, not just immigrants. Will they soon be deporting the homeless or Medicaid users? Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t born yet when Bush Sr had that experience. But I definitely get your point (which seems to be that classism extends waaaaay beyond the scope of what is happening here), and that it is extremely concerning where this classism will go next. I’m concerned too.

      Though I will note that classism is bipartisan (at least in my experiences)–my mom wasn’t able to volunteer for a presidential campaign once because she didn’t give money (she was VERY poor back then and didn’t have the money to donate) and there was a time we weren’t able to get constituent service from a Democratic member of Congress because we didn’t donate to the congressmember’s campaign.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello Brendan. I agree and I am sorry your mom had that experience. Coming from a small state before I moved to Florida our congress people were very accessible. I got my sixth grade diploma from one of the sitting Senators of my state. I will say the problem is much more pronounced on the Republican side though. I often point to the out look expressed by Senator Chuck Grassley towards poor people.

        “I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley (R-Iowa) told the Des Moines Register, “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

        The estate tax is only on the very wealthy and Republicans call it a death tax and want it gone. Only the wealthiest people in the US will be hit by it, but that is too much to ask of those people because poor people might enjoy movies or a few drinks or even spend money on a night out with a romantic partner. Not that the wealthy don’t do all that and more, it is just the poor are not allowed to have the same pleasures. Classicism at its most repugnant. hugs

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Goodness me…that is quite the repugnant classism from Grassley. Yeesh.

        My family has sadly experienced classism from both political parties. My mom so badly wanted to volunteer for the Bill Clinton 1992 Campaign, but her county’s Democratic Party required her to go to these banquet lunches that cost money (lots of it). And since then, she’s had two representatives not help her because she didn’t donate to their campaigns: one Democrat and one Republican. My mom theorizes that many Democrats are hesitant to call this classist because there are lots of classist Democrats as well. Given her experiences, I can definitely see where she’s coming from.

        The classism examples I’m citing are behind-the-scenes classism, though. With examples like what I talked about in today’s post, or what Grassley said, that’s pronounced classism and open for the general public to see.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Call it what you want, it isn’t new. The GOP tax cut bill sent over 80% of the wealth to the top 5 % of the income level. And look at the Social Security tax. A police chief or school superintendent making 130,000 a year pays the same amount (not the same percent,the same AMOUNT) as Tom Brady, who will make 23,000,000 this year. The most regressive tax in America. The rich pay basically nothing (capped at about $16,000). The fossil fuel industry gets around $20,000,000,000 (that’s billion) in tax subsidies each year. Now, where does all this tax money come from? The working man and woman who don’t have access to massive tax breaks. Classism or corruption. Call it what you want. It has gotten worse since 1980. Only the destruction of the GOP will change that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, I was discussing issues with classism with my mom in particular the other night, and she basically had the same dividing line for classism, that it has gotten worse in terms of policy since 1980.

      And one thing that I think you and Scottie have done a good job of exposing in the comments section is that this is far from the first policy that’s classist–this is the latest known manifestation of classism.

      Liked by 2 people

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