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MCALLEN, RGV – Concerns raised by Graciela Camarena in the Rio Grande Guardian about a proposal that would provide a tough choice for some immigrants is now breaking news in the New York Times.

Camarena, program director for the Children’s Defense Fund-RGV, said a Trump Administration proposal would deem immigrants who use public assistance services a public charge and make them ineligible to apply for a green card.

NYT reporters Michael D. Shear and Emily Baumgaertner filed a breaking story Saturday saying Trump administration officials have announced that immigrants “who legally use public benefits like food assistance and Section 8 housing vouchers could be denied green cards” under new rules aimed at keeping out people the administration deems a drain on the country.

“The move could force millions of poor immigrants who rely on public assistance for food and shelter to make a difficult choice between accepting financial help and seeking a green card to live and work legally in the United States,” the NYT story states.

“Older immigrants, many of whom get low-cost prescription drugs through the Medicare Part D program, could also be forced to stop participating in the popular benefits program or risk being deemed a ‘public charge’ who is ineligible for legal resident status.”

The NYT noted that the move is “not intended to affect most immigrants who have already been granted green cards.” However, it points out that advocates fear that those with legal resident status “will stop using public benefits to protect their status.”

“Public charge is a term that has been used for decades. It is part of immigration law,” Camarena told the Rio Grande Guardian in a story filed Sept. 7. 

“The term used to only affect a few immigrants that utilized certain benefits. Those benefits were longterm care and cash help, such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Those were the only two programs or benefits that immigrant families would stay away from, where the immigration lawyer would say, do not apply for those programs, they will affect your chances of getting legal resident status.”

Things are changing, though, Camarena said.

“Now, with the new administration, that policy is set to change. Public charge would impact U.S. citizen children with undocumented immigrant parents if those children utilize benefits like CHIP or Children’s Medicaid, WIC, SNAP, even housing or tax credits. If they use those programs, the children who qualify for them, the immigrant parents who are applying for legal permanent residency could be possibly be affected.”

Asked what impact the proposed change would have, Camarena said: “It would put families in a difficult position. Do the parents continue to become a permanent resident or do they feed their children, do they provide healthcare, which their children deserve and qualify for.”

The Trump Administration’s announcement has Latino Victory Fund worried.

“This proposed rule is another heartless attempt by the Trump administration to vilify the immigrant community,” said Cristobal J. Alex, Latino Victory Fund president. “Immigrants are a vital part of our nation’s economy and culture, and their contributions have made us the powerhouse we are today.  We must not let this xenophobic president punish those who are most vulnerable in their time of need. As a nation of immigrants, we are better than this.”

Click here to the read the Rio Grande Guardian story of Sept. 7, 2018.

Click here to read the New York Times story of Sept. 22, 2018.

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