Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

Angela Kelly of the Center for American Progress (a backer of the Senate "Gang of Eight" amnesty) pulled a fast one on the National Journal this week when she spoke to the media outlet for "Immigration Law May Be Tough on the Poor." The "poor" in the headline refers not to U.S. citizens who are among the working poor or unemployed, but unauthorized aliens who may be unable to support themselves without government benefits even after they receive legal status and work permits under the bill. The Journal reported:

"The Senate’s bipartisan 'Gang of Eight' has already agreed on tough economic criteria for undocumented immigrants who would be legalized under their bill. People granted status as 'registered provisional immigrants,' or RPIs, would be required to maintain earnings above 125 percent of the poverty level. That’s about $29,400 for a family of four. They also would be required to stay employed. More than 60 days in a row of unemployment would render them ineligible for renewal of their RPI visas or a green cards.

"The economic requirements are carefully worded to ensure that immigrants given legal status are employed on a regular basis, said Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

There also are exceptions to the criteria for students and the 'derivative' family members of the principal applicant.

"'If people don’t meet the requirement, they’ll presumably lose their RPI status -- hardly a positive outcome since we’ll just be creating a new pool of quasi-undocumented folks,' Kelley said in an e-mail."

That does sound pretty "tough," to use the Journal's word, particularly in light of Robert Rector's findings this week that 75 percent of unauthorized aliens have only a high school degree or less and could cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion over the next 50 year precisely because they are likely to remain poor. In this economy, in which 27.8 million Americans with a high school education or less do not have jobs, it is easy to imagine millions of legalized aliens would fail to meet these requirements. You would expect pro-amnesty advocacy groups to be screaming to remove those provisions. The reason they aren't is because the National Journal misread the bill, or - more likely - allowed Kelly to mislead them.

To be fair to the National Journal, their story did include this little clue: "There are also exceptions to the criteria for students and the 'derivative' family members of the principle applicant." Readers might have missed that line at the end of the fifth paragraph and even if readers caught it, what in the world does it mean?

Explanation of "There are also exceptions":

The National Journal'sI story refers to the "Gang of Eight" immigration bill, S. 744 - specifically, the RPI Extension Requirements: P.40, lines 9-20. 245B(c)(9)(B); and the Inadmissibility Exceptions: P. 33, line 35. 245B(b)(3)(A)(ii)

According to the bill, RPI's can fail to meet the continual employment / public charge requirement and still keep their status as long as they have an income at or above the Federal Poverty level ($11,490 for an individual; $23,550 for a family of four). Unauthorized aliens only have to meet one of the (1) employment/public charge or (2) poverty level income standards to extend their RPI status for an additional 6 years. The "Gang of Eight" bill specifically excludes the "public charge" inadmissibility section of current law for the initial amnesty.

The "public charge" requirement is determined by looking at the "totality of the circumstances," according to USCIS. Part of that is looking at public benefits received - but only the use of public cash benefits and institutionalization. USCIS even provides a list of examples of aid that they won't include in their analysis: 

  • Medicaid and other health insurance and health services (including public assistance for immunizations and for testing and treatment of symptoms of communicable diseases; use of health clinics, short-term rehabilitation services, and emergency medical services) other than support for long-term institutional care
  • Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Nutrition programs, including Food Stamps, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program, and other supplementary and emergency food assistance programs
  • Housing benefits
  • Child care services
  • Energy assistance, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Emergency disaster relief
  • Foster care and adoption assistance
  • Educational assistance (such as attending public school), including benefits under the Head Start Act and aid for elementary, secondary, or higher education Job training programs
  • In-kind, community-based programs, services, or assistance (such as soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, and short-term shelter)

In other words, by using the well-established legal term "totality of the circumstances," they mean the Federal government standard: "some of the circumstances."

But the exceptions don't stop there. RPI's can also fail to meet both of the employment requirements and still keep their status if they are in school full-time.

We're still not done. RPI's can fail to meet all of the employment and education requirements and still keep their status if they meet ANY of the following conditions: 

  • Under 21 during first RPI extension
  • Over 60 when applying for RPI or 65 or older when applying to adjust status
  • Physical/mental disability
  • Have dependent RPI family members
  • On employment leave
  • Was the primary caretaker of a child or person unable to care for themselves

Still think this constitutes "tough economic criteria"? The "Gang of Eight" has one more for you: ALL OF THE ABOVE requirements can be waived by the Secretary of Homeland Security if she or he finds "extreme hardship" for the alien OR their US citizen/Legal Permanent Resident spouse, parent or child.

Just to be on the safe side, reporters might want to take a page from the National Journal and add "There are also exceptions" to every story they write about this giant "Gang of Eight" bill.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

Legal Immigration
Illegal Immigration

Updated: Wed, May 8th 2013 @ 4:01pm EDT

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