Ocasio-Cortez: Immigrants’ Legal Status Shouldn't Bar Government Assistance

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Ocasio-Cortez: Immigrants’ Legal Status Shouldn't Bar Government Assistance

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez today outlined a variety of bills she said are aimed at reducing poverty. Given her progressive political leanings, many of these bills stake out a liberal position on this issue. One in particular will likely to be quite controversial – a bill that would allow any immigrant, whether they are in the country legally or not, to obtain benefits from government programs.

 

Current law prohibits illegal immigrants from accessing most federal assistance programs. Legal immigrants can only access these benefits once they have been in the country for five years. Under Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s bill, an individual’s immigration status, whether legal or not, would no longer be considered when providing these benefits.

 

In the 1990s, Congress passed legislation that was signed by President Clinton which limited when immigrants could access federal benefits. Supporters of this change said that while the U.S. should welcome immigrants, it should not draw them here with the promise of government assistance. Instead, these reformers, argued, immigrants should come here with an expectation to work.

 

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s legislation would change this by giving all immigrants the opportunity to qualify for government programs. She argues that society benefits when there are fewer restrictions on the social safety net. She says that allowing these individuals to access government benefits will produce a more just society.

 

This proposal to reform federal welfare law comes as part of a package of bills that would make major changes in how the federal government deals with poverty. Among her proposals would be to adjust the federal poverty rate by geography, impose rent control nationwide, allow individuals with criminal convictions to obtain government benefits, and enact an international treaty declaring that “all persons have the right to work, fair and just conditions of work, social security, an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing, housing, and healthcare.”

 

Do you think that immigrants, regardless of legal status, should have access to government benefits?

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