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Trump Administration Rule Would Penalize Immigrants For Needing Benefits

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The Trump administration is moving forward with regulations that are expected to dramatically reshape the U.S. immigration system by denying green cards and visas to immigrants who use — or are expected to use — a wide range of federal, state and local government benefits.

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Speaker 1: 00:00 Immigrants in California who received medical or CalFresh benefits could soon find they are not eligible for green cards. The Trump administration just announced a broad expansion to the so-called public charge rule, which tries to screen out immigrants who rely on government for assistance. Only a small percentage of immigrants directly qualify for government programs. But the new rules announced today will also allow officials to determine if green card applicants will likely rely on public assistance in the future. The change makes it more likely that poor immigrants will be denied illegal working status in the u s joining me is Lillian Serrano. She's chair of the San Diego Immigrants Rights consortium. And Lillian, welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. What's your understanding of how this new expansion of the public charge rule will work and who will be affected?

Speaker 2: 00:55 Yeah, so, so as you mentioned, the, the new definition of public charter was recently released a few hours ago. We know that this, uh, this new change will definitely be affecting those who are more vulnerable, those who are in need of that extra hand to be able to go through tough times. Just like we all had at one point or another. Um, we have to remember that there's a reason why it is we as a country have a safety net. Right? And that is because we recognize that while we all work hard and while we are try our best to provide for ourselves and our families, there are times that are the, we all have difficulties doing that. And we had recognized that as a country, uh, we are able to provide that extra hand to those who need us the most at the Times that they need us the most. Do you have it

Speaker 1: 01:49 general sense of how many immigrants rely on public assistance programs?

Speaker 2: 01:53 It's hard to tell. It's hard to tell how many immigrants will be affected [inaudible] but because this is another attempt to create fear in the immigrant community, we know, and this is something that unfortunately we had been hearing for over a year now that even if people are not directly being impacted by the new definition of public chart, they are scare. And when people are scare people, um, makes, makes tough decisions,

Speaker 1: 02:23 mostly benefits that affect immigrant children are exempt from this consideration though, isn't that right?

Speaker 2: 02:29 Yes. Yes. So, uh, as of right now, this, this wouldn't necessarily affect uh, the parents of, of immigrant children's or even us born children who are receiving benefits and nobody should be have. But in that situation, no one should be put in a situation where they have to decide whether they bring food to their house or do they have a chance to be in this country legally or if they have a, a work permit where they can actually work legally and, and receive all the benefits? No, that shouldn't be a, a question that anyone needs to ask.

Speaker 1: 03:05 Now in San Diego, the county has reported that there's been a decrease in enrollment rates in public assistance programs like medical and cal fresh food program. Based on what you're hearing in the community, are immigrants already opting out of safety net programs they're eligible for because they're concerned about this immigration status and getting a green card?

Speaker 2: 03:28 Yes. That, that Ha. That is something that we have been seeing, like I said, for, for almost a year now since that announcement first came out that the administration was going to start actively working on changing the definition to public chart. We started seeing a lot of families and a lot of people just in general within the immigrant community, um, this enrolling in programs or even if they, they still have them, they, they stop using them. [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 03:54 now in announcing the new rule this morning, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of the u s citizenship and Immigration Service says the purpose of the move is to ensure that immigrants do not become dependent on the government

Speaker 3: 04:08 through the public charge rule. President Trump's administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America.

Speaker 1: 04:24 How do you respond to lean to him and others who share that sentiment?

Speaker 2: 04:28 Yeah, I think this is, um, this is very conflicting. I think with the values that we have as a country. Like I was mentioning earlier, we are a country that, you know, we all work hard. We, we know that every American works hard every day to be able to do the best that they can, right? We are in a country that though we have a promise that doesn't matter in which, uh, how the conditions in which you were born, right? That that one day, if you work hard, you can make a great life. Yet, um, we all know that there are times where, where that's hard, right? We all, and if it's not us, someone in our family at one point had, had been or had been in a position where, where they just need an extra hand, right? It might be just a couple of weeks in my VF few months, right?

Speaker 2: 05:17 Where they just need that extra push, the ability to eat just one more day so they can continue searching for that job or continue going on pursuing their educational dreams, right? And what we're saying is that promise is for everyone but immigrants, right? That promise is for everyone. But those who who are coming in here seeking for that life, we're saying that somehow those of us who, who are here in this country, um, come first, right. And are the humanity or humanity and our values are, have a, have an end to it. And that ends when, when you are low income and you are an immigrant. I have been speaking with Lillian Serrano, she's chair of the San Diego Immigrants Rights consortium. And Lillian, thank you very much for your time. Thank you for having me.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.