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Parents Forgo Children’s Health Care As Trump’s ‘Public Charge’ Proposal Looms

Guadalupe Gonzalez, left, joins other immigrants taking the citizenship oath ...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Guadalupe Gonzalez, left, joins other immigrants taking the citizenship oath during naturalization ceremonies at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) ceremony in Los Angeles Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.

A looming Trump Administration proposal for tough new rules targeting legal immigrants who use public benefits is being felt across San Diego County.

“People are now scared of accessing services that they’re actually entitled to,” said Lilian Serrano, chair of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, a group of 54 community, faith, labor, and legal organizations.

“These are services that are part of our safety net,” Serrano said. “It’s sad to see how our federal government is going after the most vulnerable members of our community.”

President Trump’s proposed “public charge” rule would require officials to consider a person’s dependency on government assistance, including Medi-Cal, food stamps and housing, before granting green cards and legal residency.

Serrano, who meets regularly with health providers who serve immigrant and refugee communities, said a growing number of parents have begun disenrolling their U.S. citizen children from health coverage out of fear it could jeopardize their chances to stay in the U.S.

“They’re scared of their families being separated,” Serrano said. “They’re scared they’re going to be a target just for taking their kids to the doctor.”

Across California, nearly 1.6 million U.S. citizen children with at least one noncitizen parent use Medi-Cal, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The consortium is advising people not to disenroll from their health benefits yet, Serrano said.

“It’s important to stay informed,” Serrano said. “We know that once the final decision is made about public charge we will have a few months to do community outreach and education to be able to disenroll if that’s where we’re at.”

Trump’s proposal was unveiled in September by the Department of Homeland Security, followed by a 60-day public comment window that closed on Dec. 10.

Currently, only cash benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are taken into account when considering green-card applications. Undocumented immigrants are already barred from receiving the benefits the Trump Administration is targeting.

A looming Trump Administration proposal for tough new rules targeting legal immigrants who use public benefits is being felt across San Diego County.

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