I wasn’t a citizen of any country until I was seven years old. And if it weren’t for the social services the Trump administration is cutting, I probably wouldn’t be alive today.
My family came to the U.S. in 1995 to escape the war in Bosnia. They had originally fled to Turkey, where I was born, and where we were welcomed but not allotted citizenships – only “guest” statuses. The U.S. granted us a green card upon arrival, and years later, when my parents took the test to become naturalized citizens, all of us attained citizenship status.
Though not perfect, there were always structures in place that allowed us to live well and ultimately contribute to the society that let us in. President Trump’s new rule cutting off social services for poorer immigrants is greasing the wheel that will take that away from hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the country today. While the new change would supposedly exclude refugees, asylum seekers, pregnant women, and children, the rule change, due to take place in October, will nonetheless deter untold thousands of immigrants from applying for life-saving social services out of fear of retribution from the Trump regime.
In Bosnia, the war my family fled — the worst conflict that Europe has seen since World War II — took an estimated 100,000 lives and displaced over 2 million people. The United States graciously opened its doors and welcomed tens of thousands of Bosnian refugees who had, quite literally, almost nowhere else to go.
Without social services, my family would never have learned English or been able to be employed in this country. Without food stamps, my family would not have had food to eat. Without welfare, my family and I would not have survived.
Ours is a story like millions of others in this nation. Our story is one of humbly reaching out for welfare benefits in order to springboard our lives in a foreign place where we had no family, friends, or money, but a peaceful place to exist, which was our only need at the time. We are grateful for the graciousness of a country that put its hope and belief in a small family determined to make new lives and be independent once again.
In an effort to remove so-called freeloaders from using public resources, the Trump administration’s aim is to force immigrants into deciding between things like eating or paying rent, and receiving a green card. Ironically, given the president’s alleged concerns, this makes it all the more difficult for the affected populations to get jobs.
If Trump and his supporters are worried about a bunch of freeloaders sucking up resources, I suggest that they turn their attention to the vast number of corporations that routinely get away with paying zero dollars in federal taxes despite making billions in profits, like Amazon, PG&E, Duke Energy, and E-Trade. These corporate freeloaders lack the patriotic values that led immigrant families like mine who came to the United States to seek out a peaceful existence, and who are proud to live, work, and pay taxes. If those companies want to do business here, they should pay taxes here.
And if the Trump administration truly wants to scrap social services and other life-saving public programs that both low-income immigrants and low-income, mostly white native-born citizens depend on, and continue to use the might of the federal government to round up, detain, and break apart families, America could become yet another stratified, chaotic, unstable banana republic that people will flee for greener pastures.
To be clear, I absolutely don’t view my family as more worthy of social services than undocumented immigrants, just because we had the luck to come here legally. Legality has never been the best indicator of the moral values that a nation should hold. Chattel slavery was once legal in America, after all. Our moral values — which in best case scenarios, translate into moral policies — have time and time again been shaped by groups of people believing in and pushing for a better future. I look forward to the lawsuits that Trump’s new policy will bring, and to defeating the monstrosity of this administration.
Lejla Huskic works in the education field, and lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Follow her on Twitter @lejlahuskic.