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