LOS ANGELES (CN) – With about 3.5 million immigrants in Los Angeles County, officials on Tuesday said a proposed Trump administration immigration policy limiting green card access for those who receive public assistance is dangerous.
The new policy, proposed on September 22 but not yet submitted to the Federal Register, would expand the number of programs that fall under the public charge rule. A “public charge” refers to someone who is likely to be dependent on the government for support, and immigrants slapped with this label would face restrictions to legal residency.
Utilizing federal benefits, housing vouchers or healthy food programs could flag someone as a “public charge.”
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said they would oppose the federal government’s new policy, which would have a sweeping impact on immigrant families and children. For example, immigrant families could end up forced to choose between a green card or health services.
Even before the announcement about the proposed policy, county officials said immigrant communities have become cautions about accessing services.
“Immigrant families ask: Will my going to the doctor today impact my immigration status tomorrow?” Jorge Orozco, chief executive officer at the L.A. County-USC Medical Center, told county supervisors.
Peter Ng with the Chinatown Service Center in Los Angeles said a female immigrant, who is a legal resident, was afraid to go to the emergency room for kidney pain. Others shared similar stories.
Some documented immigrants have even asked if they should cancel their health benefits for their families so they can stay in the United States.
County officials will send a letter to the Trump administration detailing the impact the new policy will have on immigrant communities. The board of supervisors also set in motion an outreach campaign to educate immigrant communities about the benefits available to them.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the federal government will formally submit its proposal to the Federal Register in the “coming weeks.” After that, the public will have 60 days to comment.
County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said the Trump administration is bullying immigrant communities with its policies by targeting those who are vulnerable.
“That’s why this motion is before us today,” Kuehl said at the board meeting. “We are more easily able to speak up than immigrant families.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which classifies “public charge” policy backer the Center for Immigration Studies as an anti-immigrant “hate group,” said the proposal continues a trend from the Trump administration that includes the weakening of temporary protected status and scrapping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides a path to citizenship for children brought to the United States with undocumented parents.
The federal government has also signaled intention to terminate the diversity lottery program, which provides visas to citizens from countries with minimal numbers of immigrants.