President Trump spoke in Iowa last night at a rally where he unveiled a new (actually not new) proposal regarding immigration and access to social welfare benefits. Trump argued that new legal immigrants coming to America should be barred from receiving any kind of public assistance programs for five years so as to weed out people who come here and can’t immediately support themselves.


Bloomberg news reports on some of the specifics:

President Donald Trump said he’ll propose legislation that would ban U.S. immigrants from receiving any welfare benefits for five years.

“I believe the time has come for new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Wednesday. “And we’ll be putting in legislation to that effect very shortly.”

As noted by The Hill, however, this kind of provision has been the law since 1996, thanks to President Clinton:

President Trump in a rally on Wednesday evening said immigrants who enter the United States should not be eligible for welfare benefits for five years, though such a law has already existed for 20 years.

But such a law is already in effect and has been in place since 1996.

Known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), the legislation was passed during the administration of former President Bill Clinton and said that an immigrant is “not eligible for any Federal means-tested public benefit” for 5 years, which starts on the date the immigrant enters the country.

There are exceptions under the law as to what qualifies as a federal-means tested public benefit. Some exceptions include certain medical assistance, “in-kind emergency disaster relief,” and public health assistances for some vaccines.

So, does anyone not crack open Google and maybe look these things up before they become a presidential speech? Maybe have a couple people, who perhaps are acquainted with current immigration law, just give this sort of thing a glance over to make sure it’s actually a new proposal?

Doesn’t matter much though, because now Trump has released this squirrel into the yard and the media will chase it around for the day. His base will love it since it fits his “America first” theme of putting taxpayers before newcomers.

Without details, it’s hard to know, but the Bloomberg story makes the assumption that it expands the 1996 law and perhaps applies to programs more broadly, and more classes of immigrants:

He did not detail his proposal to ban immigrants from receiving immigration benefits, which he has not previously disclosed. The legislation would presumably go further than the 1996 welfare overhaul passed under former President Bill Clinton, which banned many kinds of legal immigrants from receiving most federal welfare benefits for five years or longer after entry into the U.S., including health programs, cash assistance and subsidies for home energy costs.

That law exempted certain immigrants, including refugees, people from Cuba and Haiti, and green-card holders, according to the National Immigration Law Center, an advocacy group.

As Trump made the proposal in Iowa, the White House announced a move to slow the flow of legal travel to the U.S.

This is Trump working back into the “keep the base happy” mode, which is something that has become a strategy within the White House. With the constant drumbeat against him, he needs his core supporters to stick with him despite the current lack of legislative shortcomings.

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Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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