Fast Tracking Fascism: Trump/Pence Regime and Supreme Court Escalate Assaults on Legal Immigrants



You know you are risking arrest and deportation by applying for food stamps to help get through a difficult time after losing a job—but it’s a risk you take so that maybe your kids can have something for dinner...

You know that taking a severely ill but uninsured loved one to an emergency room could land you both in the custody of ICE and get you deported—but if you don’t, all you have is hope that somehow her illness ends and she survives...

These are the kinds of choices that countless people—legal immigrants—will likely confront because of harsh new rules imposed by the Trump/Pence regime, and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Biggest Attack on Legal Immigration in a Century

In September 2018 the Trump/Pence regime announced new rules that would mean many more immigrants with permanent legal status (green cards) or applying for such status could lose their status and be subject to deportation or have their applications denied if they use public benefits—or are even labeled by officials as potential users of such benefits. The benefits include food stamps and Section 8 housing vouchers. As the New York Times reported, “The move could force millions of poor immigrants who rely on public assistance for food and shelter to make a difficult choice between accepting financial help and seeking a green card to live and work legally in the United States.” (September 22, 2018)

Even before it becomes official, this heartless measure is wreaking havoc and instilling fear in the lives of countless people, including immigrants who have “played by the rules”—who entered the country legally and maintained their legal status. Last October, the website City Limits reported that in New York City, “for non-citizen seniors, that reluctance [to use available benefits] has grown in the past year, a result of alarm from the changes to federal tests to admissibility that will go into effect ... if pending lawsuits do not upend them.” In Texas, there was a drop of 170,000 children on Medicaid between December 2017 and November 2019, and the number of Texas children enrolled in CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) fell by 64,000.

Lawsuits seeking to prevent this measure from being enacted were filed by various states and immigrants’ rights organizations. In October 2019 a federal judge in New York issued a nationwide injunction blocking the implementation of Trump’s order until legal disputes over the measure had worked their way through the courts. But on January 27 (Holocaust Memorial Day), as Trump’s impeachment trial was underway in the Senate, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that the injunction be lifted. Journalist Sophia Tesfaye wrote in Salon that this “represent[s] the strongest effort to restrict legal immigration into the U.S. in more than a century.” (January 28, 2020)

“Wealth Test”

Since 1882, federal immigration law has allowed the denial of admission into the country of people who the government determined were going to be a “public charge”—reliant on government cash funding as their main source of support, or in need of long-term supervision in a medical institution or prison. This was generally used against a relatively small number of people who had severe physical or mental disabilities. Fewer than one percent of applicants were denied admission because of the public charge clause.

That number grew in the 1930s, during the Democratic administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, when U.S. officials used the “public charge” clause to deny entry to about 300,000 German Jews trying to flee Nazi persecution. Now, with Trump’s order OK’d by the Supreme Court even while it is still being contested in courts, the fascists in power in the executive and judicial branches of the U.S. government have dramatically expanded their legal definition of public charge.

From now on, immigration authorities will impose a “forward-looking” test, and determine if they think applicants are “more likely than not” to require assistance from government nutritional, housing, and health care programs at some point in their lives. This assessment is based on a “totality of circumstances” and has specific standards that include income, education, and English language proficiency. It significantly expands the programs that will exclude people from receiving or attaining legal status to include health care, nutritional, and housing support, not just direct cash assistance. As many are pointing out, this is basically a “wealth test” on immigrants.

These changes will hit millions of people, with lasting and catastrophic effect. The Migration Policy Institute wrote last August that the new rule “could cause a significant share of the nearly 23 million noncitizens and U.S. citizens in immigrant families using public benefits to disenroll.... These chilling effects may be broadened with the expected release of a new proposed regulation expected to expand the grounds for deporting legally present noncitizens.” Another report, from the Center for American Progress, notes that each year, the new test “would apply to roughly 912,500 people seeking green cards; 10 million people seeking nonimmigrant visas from U.S. State Department (DOS) officials; and roughly 500,000 nonimmigrants seeking extensions of stay or changes of nonimmigrant status from U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials.” (November 27, 2018)

Heartless attacks on legal immigrants are part and parcel of the comprehensive fascization of immigration policy: restrictions on visa applications, refugee and asylum admissions, and Temporary Protected Status; a border lined with concentration camps; targeting Muslims and Latin Americans with vicious repression; locking children in dog cages, and more. Robert McCaw, the government affairs director of the Council on American-Islamic Affairs, put the significance of the Trump/Pence regime’s “public charge” rule bluntly and accurately: “The Trump administration’s policy could quite literally kill people by making them too afraid to seek life-saving medical care, and the Supreme Court seems to agree such a cruel system is acceptable.”

The Supreme Court—Accelerating the Consolidation of Fascism

From the time it took power, a primary goal of the fascist regime Trump heads has been to overturn long-standing laws regarding legal immigration. Now, after almost three years and hundreds of pages of legal documents devoted to tearing apart existing regulations and putting in place new, highly punitive ones, they have their plan.

Injunctions by federal appeals courts have been a thorn in the regime’s side as it has carried all this out. Repeatedly, courts have issued injunctions that have had a nationwide impact in delaying—although not stopping—some of the anti-immigrant measures of the regime.

The fascists who dominate the Supreme Court want to put an end to this. A majority on the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s latest attack on legal immigration. And while an appeal to the new measure still makes its way through the court system, the Supreme Court’s vote indicates it will almost certainly be upheld.

But for Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, that wasn’t enough—they want to end altogether the filing of injunctions to stop implementation of federal regulations. And a concurring opinion they filed with the January 27 ruling indicates that the Supreme Court could soon do just that. Gorsuch wrote, “It has become increasingly apparent that this court must, at some point, confront these important objections to this increasingly widespread practice.... I hope ... that we might at an appropriate juncture take up some of the underlying equitable and constitutional questions raised by the rise of nationwide injunctions.” (New York Times, January 27, 2020) In other words, stop the injunctions that delay implementation of the fascist measures, and get down to the business of carrying them out.

If they succeed in doing this, it would remove a speed bump to the full-on consolidation and legitimization of fascism the Trump/Pence regime is pushing towards. It would further centralize uncontested power in the hands of a fascist executive, approved by a court stacked with fascists. It would be extremely damaging to the interests of the people.

A System of Endless Horrors

Step back for a minute. The U.S. system of capitalism-imperialism has literally impoverished and devastated the lives of billions of people across this planet. In Nigeria, where oil production has poisoned the air, earth, and sea and people routinely are killed in explosions and fires of oil pipelines; in Mexico, where millions of peasants have been driven from their farms while highly profitable production of non-essential items turn out goods exported to the U.S. for use in things like avocado toast; in Southeast Asia, where millions died in criminal wars of U.S. imperialist aggression, the bodies of children are still torn apart by bomblets buried beneath the ground’s surface, and earth poisoned from Agent Orange and napalm remains unsuitable for agriculture.

And now the rulers of this system are out to further punish people who have been forced to leave their homes and manage to make it to the U.S.—because they haven’t accumulated enough wealth? No one should accept or tolerate this injustice!

Humanity needs a revolution that overthrows this system of capitalism-imperialism. And right now, as fascism rapidly consolidates in this country, humanity more than ever needs a movement of sustained nonviolent resistance to drive the Trump/Pence regime from power.

The demonization, criminalization and deportations of immigrants, by Bob Avakian, an excerpt

See the full film, excerpts and Q&A of this film here




Get a free email subscription to

Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.