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Expert Warns Trump’s Plans To Target Legal Immigrants’ Access To Benefits Is A Step Toward Authoritarianism

The White House’s plans to penalize legal immigrants who utilize public assistance programs are a means toward a much more nefarious goal, an expert on fascism and authoritarianism warned.

Photo by Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images

Per a report from the New York Times, the Trump administration is planning to implement a new federal rule that would limit access to government benefits for immigrants who are in the country legally. The move is meant as a deterrence measure in order to dissuade poorer immigrants from believing they can enter the country, even legally, and expect aid from the government if it’s needed.

Food stamps and housing subsidies would likely be impacted the most, the report noted.

The rule would be implemented within 60 days, and was reportedly crafted by Stephen Miller, an aide to the president who has developed many controversial ideas for the administration regarding immigration. It will likely face immense opposition from immigration groups across the country, and likely end up before the courts to decide.

Several users on social media voiced fears beyond the immediate impact of how the rule would affect the nation as a whole going forward. Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe explained that the move is a “unilateral presidential power” meant “to hurt immigrants at (a) net cost to the nation as a whole.”

Ruth BenGhiat, a professor of history at NYU and an expert on fascist and authoritarian governments, went a step further, cautioning that a rule change like this, targeting a legal group of people in the country, is a step toward more troubling times.

“Today’s news that Trump admin is now targeting legal immigrants who use state services warrants a reminder,” she explained. “Authoritarian persecution of state enemies proceeds step by step.”

Ben-Ghiat has condemned Trump, as well as his supporters, in the past, including recently as news circulated that the assailant in a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, used the same language as the president in his manifesto, particularly describing immigrants as a “Hispanic invasion” of that state.

“They legitimize this hate speech and encourage people to say publicly what they might’ve only said privately before,” Ben-Ghiat said of the administration’s rhetoric, per a report from USA Today. “And so they legitimate the expression of hatred, which very often passes to actions.



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