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It’s been a busy week in the newsroom. As the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings dominate the headlines, Tanvi Misra will update you on an important story you might have missed: a policy change that could keep millions of immigrants out of the United States. If you want to know more about the hearings, we’ve got you covered there, too: Members have been reacting to the hearings and the latest news in real time on our forums. Dive in.  — Caroline Kitchener

What to Know: The Massive Potential Impact of a Wonky Welfare Rule

By Tanvi Misra, CityLab staff writer

With the avalanche of news from the past week, it would be easy to miss an important development in immigration that could affect millions. Last Saturday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security proposed a new rule that seeks to disqualify visa and green-card applicants who might become “public charges”—that is, reliant on benefits such as public housing, food stamps, and Medicaid.

The government says the proposed rule will help “promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.” But immigration advocates and some historians call this the latest effort to categorize prospective immigrants as “good” or “bad” on the basis of income and race.

What’s Important

After an obligatory 60-day period, the proposed rule will be open to public input and subject to change. If implemented in its current form, though, poorer, less educated immigrants from Africa, Asia, and Latin America will likely find it much harder to join family members in America.

Some experts fear that the mere proposal of this rule, drafts of which have been circulating in the media for months, is already creating what analysts call a “chilling effect.” Many immigrant families, out of concern for their immigration status, are already withdrawing from essential nutrition programs and other public benefits they qualify for. The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute estimates that 6.8 million people in the U.S.—a third of the country’s noncitizen population—might forgo assistance if the rule is implemented as is.  

The “public charge” criterion has a long and controversial history. In antebellum Alabama, the state legislature conditioned the emancipation of individual enslaved people on whether they could be a burden on the government. The standard was applied to immigrants with the introduction of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. While the importance of this criterion has declined in recent decades, visa and green-card applicants today still have to demonstrate that they can support themselves, and must note whether they’ve relied on public benefits in the past.

Looking Ahead

Immigrant advocates probably won’t let this proposal go through without a fight. But the rule might not be changed at all, and if it is, the nature of the potential changes is unclear. Apart from the effect the rule may have on immigrants in the U.S., I’m also watching out for spillover consequences in the places they live. Will the withdrawal of immigrants from public benefits cause a spike in poverty? Will it lead to more housing instability? Will it cause people with communicable diseases to forgo treatment? These are potential consequences of the rule, according to the very agency that issued it.

What to Expect

Notes on the news to come


On Monday, Apple will start requiring all apps to have privacy policies, explaining what kind of data they collect and how those data are used. Since Cambridge Analytica used the Facebook app to harvest private information from more than 50 million users, tech giants have faced more regulation and scrutiny for how they handle their users’ data. But Apple hasn’t pledged to review every policy. An app could still adopt a flimsy policy, or even break it. Ultimately, it may not matter: Have you read all your apps’ privacy policies?

Politics & Policy

The Violence Against Women Act, the landmark piece of domestic-violence legislation passed in 1994, is set to expire on Sunday. Without this law, hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to domestic-violence organizations—which provide shelters, emergency hotlines, and legal aid—could disappear. This could be particularly harmful to indigenous communities. When the act was last reauthorized, in 2013, American Indian victims of domestic abuse were, for the first time, granted the right to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators for incidents that occured on tribal land. “We must let Congress know that we cannot let VAWA expire,” wrote Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco, a congressional advocate with the Native American Advocacy Program. “We cannot let victims in Indian Country go without protection.”


The citizens of Macedonia will decide on Sunday whether they want to change the name of their country to the Republic of Northern Macedonia. The decision, which dredges up dueling histories of ethnicity and identity, could have momentous consequences. Since Macedonia was born a quarter century ago from fragments of the former Yugoslavia, Greece has maintained a veto on the nation’s admission to the European Union. Within Greece, Macedonia refers to a northern region of the country. To the Greeks, ceding the name to the Slavic inhabitants of Macedonia the nation would mean blurring the lines between the Hellenistic Macedonia of yore and the Slavic Macedonia of the present day. If Macedonia's citizens elect to rename their country, and lawmakers ratify the referendum in the Greek and Macedonian parliaments, Greece has agreed to remove its veto, allowing Northern Macedonia to both join NATO and enlarge the EU.

Arts & Culture

The colorful Korean boy band BTS ends its global tour this weekend with a historic show at New York City’s Citi Field stadium. The concert, which sold out in 10 minutes, is the largest U.S. performance by a Korean group. BTS, which Jimmy Fallon recently called “the biggest boy band on the planet,” has amassed a horde of firsts for a K-pop artist: performances at American music-award shows; collaborations with megastars like Nicki Minaj; a Top 10 Billboard debut for the group’s latest single; a trifecta of morning, prime-time, and late-night media appearances; and, just this week, an address to the United Nations. The former underdog of the K-pop industry is now the reigning world champion.

125 Years Ago

If there be any region in the world where the natural gregarious instinct of mankind should assert itself, that region is our Northwestern prairies, where a short hot summer is followed by a long cold winter, and where there is little in the aspect of nature to furnish food for thought. On every hand the treeless plain stretches away to the horizon line. In summer, it is checkered with grain fields or carpeted with grass and flowers, and it is inspiring in its color and vastness; but one mile of it is almost exactly like another, save where some watercourse nurtures a fringe of willows and cottonwoods. When the snow covers the ground the prospect is bleak and dispiriting. No brooks babble under icy armor. There is no bird life after the wild geese and ducks have passed on their way south. The silence of death rests on the vast landscape, save when it is swept by cruel winds that search out every chink and cranny of the buildings, and drive through each unguarded aperture the dry, powdery snow.  — E. V. Smalley, September 1893

Items this week by Faith Hill, Caroline Kitchener, Matt Thompson, and Karen Yuan. What do you think of these mini-previews? We want to know. Tell us in 10 seconds.

What’s New

Updates on your Masthead membership

One thing you should know: Last week we put a members’ debate to a vote: Is there or isn’t there a coup going on within the Trump administration? The results are in, and an overwhelming 75.3 percent of you voted no. “Administrative action to influence Presidents is as old as the Republic,” one skeptical member wrote to us. Merci beaucoup for joining this debate. Got a controversial stance on an issue that you’d like to debate with fellow members? [Reply to this email.]

Where you can dive in: On Thursday, Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testified before the U.S. Senate about Ford’s sexual-assault accusation against the Supreme Court nominee. In the forums, Atlantic staffers and members watched the hearings and are discussing them and their aftermath in a live conversation. [Join the ongoing discussion.]

What’s coming: We’ve kicked off our Longreads Bracket, a search for the best article of the past month. Our panel of member and Atlantic-staffer judges have whittled down the list to four semifinalists that we’d like you to vote on. Their motley topics: Catholic orphanages, the war in Afghanistan, sperm, and immigrant deportation. Check them out. [Vote for your favorite.]

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