Driven by fear, green-card holders are avoiding government aid, advocates say

By Chris Fuchs

Unfair. Un-American. A weeding out process for immigrants.

That is how some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are characterizing a proposed federal regulation that could stop some from receiving green cards or adjusting their visa status if they receive certain forms of public assistance.

Monday marks the end of a 60-day public comment period for the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed rule, which would expand the definition of who is considered a “public charge,” a term meaning someone primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.

Under current policy, immigration officers can deny green cards if, among other things, an applicant has used cash aid like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, also known as welfare, or Supplemental Security Income, which helps the elderly, blind and disabled who have little or no income.

But the Trump administration’s proposed rule change to decide who qualifies as a public charge goes even further — it wants to include past or current use of Medicaid, food stamps, Section 8 housing assistance, and a Medicare low-income subsidy for prescription drugs.

“The public charge, simply put, is a way to prevent immigrants from becoming legal permanent residents based on whether or not they use public support, even if temporarily,” said Dr. Tung Nguyen, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and the former chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the Obama administration.

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