LOS ANGELES – A federal proposal to disqualify some immigrants receiving food stamps or Medicaid from gaining entry to the U.S. or obtaining a green card is “inhumane” and “heartless,” a Los Angeles County supervisor said Tuesday.
Supervisor Hilda Solis issued a statement opposing the Trump administration’s plan to expand the definition of a public charge.
“This inhumane policy shift would force immigrant families to make an impossible choice between putting food on the table or forgoing basic needs to ensure their families stay together in this country,” Solis said. “This heartless rule will undermine access to health care for many legal immigrants who would rather skip medical appointments because they fear endangering their immigration status, and that could create a public health crisis.”
Federal officials note that immigration laws have long sought to prevent new residents from becoming a burden on taxpayers.
“This is (a) 140-year-old part of our legal immigration system,” Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told National Public Radio in a recent interview. “It’s called a public charge rule, the idea of public charge being that one … isn’t supposed to become a public charge, a burden on the government. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask to continue that tradition of inviting immigrants here who will not essentially go on welfare.”
The change is that instead of considering only cash benefits as disqualifying, the new rule will include the use of food stamps and Medicaid.
The proposed rule change exempts refugees, certain members of the military and pregnant women and children receiving Medicaid.
Cuccinelli said it would be just one factor in decisions made by his department.
“It’s a heavily weighted negative factor. But the career immigration services officers will make these decisions on a case-by-case basis with all factors considered for each immigrant on a case-by-case basis,” Cuccinelli told NPR.
San Francisco and Santa Clara counties filed suit Tuesday seeking an injunction against the rule, which is set to take effect Oct. 15, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The suit alleges that the rule will force immigrants to forgo federal benefits, shifting the financial burden to state governments.
Solis said patients would likely end up in emergency rooms or health care centers without federal funding.
She added the county lawyers are analyzing the rule and will make recommendations about whether to join legal challengers.
County workers will also educate residents about the rule’s potential impact on them individually and offer referrals to legal aid when necessary.
“Immigrants have made this country what it is today: a global economic powerhouse. With this action, this administration ignores those critical contributions by advocating for federal policies that separate immigrant children from their parents. This is part of this administration’s pattern of bullying and attacking our most vulnerable residents who lack the power to fight back,” Solis said.