University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review


Emily Demetree


The United States has a longstanding history of denying aliens admission based on a wide range of grounds that we have deemed to demonstrate the alien would be either dangerous to society or a financial burden on the state. “Self-sufficiency” has been a basic principle of US immigration law since the country’s earliest immigration statutes. It is the contention of the Department of Homeland Security that the availability of public benefits can create an incentive for immigration to the United States at a rate that cannot be financially supported by the government. Certain European countries, such as Sweden, see a high rate of immigrant flow into their welfare state. However, in Sweden, the general policy of “self-sufficiency” is not as pertinent, and thus, the general population of Sweden welcomes aliens despite high use of public benefits.

In October 2018, DHS proposed a rule under section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act that would expand the scope of the “public charge” ground of inadmissibility. The public charge doctrine dates back to the 1800’s. However, the proposed rule prescribes with specificity how it will determine whether an alien is inadmissible to the United States, by better defining, and expanding, who would fall within this category.

Whatever perceived strain that immigrants place on the welfare state should not be reason to prevent aliens from admission or citizenship in the United States. In this paper, I will analyze the history of the public charge doctrine and its intersection with the welfare state, as well as analyze the current use of public benefits by aliens. I will conduct an international comparison to the country of Sweden and analyze its Immigration and social policy. I will use these current findings and international comparisons as arguments against the DHS expansion of “public charge.”