Winsome Sears Is An Immigrant Success Story. Ken Cuccinelli and Donald Trump Would’ve Kept Her Out.
One of the more stunning Virginia political stories is Lt. Gov-elect Winsome Sears. After serving in the Marine Corps, Sears ran a homeless shelter before running for office and upsetting a 20-year incumbent Democrat to win a seat in the House of Delegates, representing Norfolk.
On Tuesday, Sears became the first female to win statewide office in Virginia, and the first Republican of color to win. As you may know, Sears is an immigrant – not a 1st or 2nd generation from a family of immigrants, but one herself.
Sears was born in Jamaica, and moved to New York at the age of 6 with her parents. She credits education – and of course, her hard work – to allow her to live the life she’s lived, including now becoming making history as a Republican statewide officeholder.
One note about her story stands out: she says when her father moved here from Jamaica, he had $1.75 to his name.
In one way, this highlights the American Dream, and why its such a powerful beacon to the rest of the world. Winsome Sears is an American immigrant success story.
Her success, and the support she has earned among Virginian and national Republicans, would never have been possible had Donald Trump been in office when her father tried to immigrate here.
The Trump Administration announced in September 2018 a new change to the “public charge rule”; this change was finalized in 2019 and put into effect in February, 2020. One of the first things President Biden did once in office was to scrap this rule, and it was formally halted in March, 2021.
The public charge rule has been around since the 1880s, but for most of its history has not been a restrictive barrier against legal immigration. That changed under Donald Trump, when they revised the definition of public charge. Most notably, this included a new assessment on whether immigrants “would be likely” to use government benefits, based on their current education, income, and employment status. In addition, beyond the existing Affidavit of Support from a sponsor or family member, DHS set a new and higher income threshold on for immigrants themselves.
The rule change attracted a massive backlash of criticism and faced immediate legal challenges, muting its actual impact. However, the intent behind the change, pushed by senior White House aide Stephen Miller, was crystal clear: to restrict legal immigration.
As the illegally-appointed Senior Official Performing the Duties of Acting Director of USCIS – as a reminder, even a GOP Senate refused to confirm him – Ken Cuccinelli’s main day-to-day responsibility was carrying out Stephen Miller’s directives and acting as the public face of their anti-immigrant crusade. This infamously came to a head when Cuccinelli proposed changing the poem on the Statue of Liberty to be less welcoming to immigrants chasing the American Dream, as Sears and her father did.
Would the Sears’ family be denied legal admission to the U.S. if Trump’s public charge rule had been in effect at the time? It’s impossible to know for certain. However, what we can be confident about is that Winsome Sears and her father, with $1.75 to their name, are exactly the type of immigrants that Trump, Miller, and Cuccinelli worked so hard to keep out of the U.S.
Thank goodness they’re not around to block the next generation of immigrants who will look to Winsome Sears as a role model.