CHN: Changes May Make it Harder for Immigrants to Receive Assistance

As reported in the February 9 Human Needs Report, the Trump administration is considering new rules that would make it harder for immigrants to come to or stay in the U.S. if they or anyone in their family – including their U.S. citizen children – use any number of public benefits they are legally entitled to, such as SNAP/food stamps or Head Start. A joint statement from the National Immigration Law Center and the Center for Law and Social Policy said this “dangerous proposal would force families, including citizen children, to choose between getting the help they need – like Head Start, food assistance, medical care, and housing assistance – and obtaining a secure immigration status for themselves or their families.”

Federal agencies are generally required to submit drafts of any significant regulatory changes to the Office of Management and Budget for its review; advocates expect these proposed rule changes to what’s known as the “public charge” provisions of immigration law to be submitted as early as this month. The proposed rule changes would then have to be open to public comment for a period of time before being issued by the Administration in final form.

Some related changes have already been put in place, however. For example, the U.S. State Department changed its policies to say that officials can now consider whether people seeking tourist or employment-based visas and those seeking to enter the U.S. as lawful permanent residents have received any public assistance or have a family member who has received any public assistance.

Advocates believe that this is a back door way for the Trump administration to restrict family immigration and deter families from securing critical services. Some service agencies have already reported panic in the immigrant community and have seen cases of families pulling out of programs like school meals because of fear that it may negatively impact them in the future, despite the fact that the leaked proposal would not count services used before the rule would be finalized. For more information, see this fact sheet on the proposed rule, this fact sheet on the State Department changes, and this guidance on talking with immigrant families, all from the National Immigration Law Center.

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