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Reaction to latest move to reduce immigrant public benefits abuse

Posted at 4:33 PM, Aug 13, 2019

The plan to crack down on immigration by favoring wealthier immigrants is controversial.

President Donald Trump’s plan would keep illegal immigrants from entering the U.S. if they’re likely to be dependent on public benefits. The White House says this is about controlling already “limited resources,” but opponents say it will actually restrict legal immigration and favor the rich.

Three months ago, Marleney Lopez arrived in Palm Beach County from Guatemala.

“When you first come here you don’t know anything so it’s good to have a place that lets you know what’s going on,” said Lopez.

She’s describing Lake Worth’s Guatemalan-Maya Center, a site that provides social services to approximately 1,000 immigrant families a month.

”This is their avenue,” said Frank O’Loughlin, the Executive Director of the center. “We’re Americans for Pete sake. This is what we do.”

But he says in his experience, most are seeking legal citizenship.

“We’re talking about the people who make the rest of us wealthy,” said O’Loughlin.

For decades, the Immigration and Nationality Act has required that those seeking legal status prove no burden to the U.S. or a “public charge.” President Trump says the law will now be utilized. Applicants for permanent or temporary visa’s could be rejected if they don’t meet income standards, or if they receive a public benefit including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid and housing assistance for more than 12 months.

”Take your pick. Do you want to take your daughter to the doctor or do you want to become a green carder?” said O’Loughlin.

The White House estimates:

  • Large numbers of non-citizens and their families have taken advantage of our generous public benefits, limited resources that could otherwise go to vulnerable Americans
  • 78 percent of households headed by a non-citizen with no more than a high school education use at least one welfare program
  • 58 percent of all households headed by a non-citizen use at least one welfare program.
  • Half of all non-citizen headed households include at least one person who uses Medicaid.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates the new policy could save the country $20 billion over the next decade in benefits.

”It’s beyond South and Central America,” said Lucia Barnes, the daughter of an immigrant and Guatemalan-Maya Center administrative assistant. “This affects Europeans, Asians, Africans. Am I missing someone? It affects everyone that comes here to this country and needs aid.”

The president’s 837-page rule is scheduled to be published Aug. 14. For more information on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Final Rule Enforcing Long-Standing Public Charge Inadmissibility Law, click here.