Tucson church clears the air about Public Charge Rule

Rule would severely scale back legal immigration for those who could utilize public benefits

Public charge town hall

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Families in Tucson are looking for answers about how an effort by the Trump administration to block green cards for immigrants will affect them.

The Public Charge Rule gives immigration agents more authority to deny green cards for immigrants who are on, or are likely to ask for, public assistance. This does not apply to refugees or those seeking asylum.

Federal judges in three states on Oct. 11 temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s policy to deny green cards to many immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps and other government benefits. This was a major setback to one of the president’s most aggressive moves yet to cut back legal immigration and make it based more on employment skills than family ties.

The rulings in California, New York and Washington came in quick succession four days before the new rules were set to take effect. The judges ruled in favor of 21 states and the District of Columbia, which challenged the policy almost immediately after it was announced in August.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels in New York said the policy redefined longstanding immigration laws with a new framework that had "no logic." Allowing the policy to go into effect now, he said, would have a significant impact on "law-abiding residents who have come to this country to seek a better life."

The rule may have been temporarily blocked, but worry continues to spread among those who would be impacted — including those in Arizona. That’s why St. Marks Presbyterian Church held a town hall Thursday night, Oct. 17, with community experts, advocates and immigration lawyers to help clear the air about the public charge rule.

“The biggest thing families can do right is to really get their facts correct," said Erika Mach with Arizona Alliance for Community Health.

Mach said her organization is seeing the effects of the public charge scare within their health centers here in Tucson.

“Families coming in worried about the public charge issue and asking to stop using their benefits like Medicaid or SNAP,” Mach said.

Putting health aside for protection is just one danger. Advocates say avoiding benefits can trickle down and impact children’s well being.

“A lot of our children are in the schools who use the benefits for lunches and breakfasts, so we don’t want them to stop doing that. It’s very imperative that they know nothing will happen,” said Richard Estrada, vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Acting Director of Citizenship and Immigration Ken Cuccinnelli said he hopes the move will be implemented. It’s a step he said is vital in protecting the future of the United States.

“Look, this country has always offered it’s opportunities to people around the world. But it’s people who come to contribute, not to come be a burden on the public. It’s important that they be able to live within our traditions and one critical one is self-sufficiency," Cuccinnelli said.

Preparing for either option started at the town hall inside St. Marks. But advocates hope their message spreads beyond these walls.

They said they hope people will be well informed and prepared.

“They need to talk to an organization, a community advocate, or immigration attorney to see if this is something that will impact them,” Mach said.

If information about public charge visit: www.uscis.gov/news/fact-sheets/public-charge-fact-sheet

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.