Crackdown On Immigrants Who Use Public Benefits Takes Effect

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FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2019, file photo, hundreds of people overflow onto the sidewalk in a line snaking around the block outside a U.S. immigration office with numerous courtrooms in San Francisco. As the new public charge rule taking effect Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, has approached, droves of immigrants including citizens and legal residents have dropped government social services they or their children may be entitled to out of fear they will be kicked out of the U.S. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — Pastor Antonio Velasquez says that before the Trump administration announced a crackdown on immigrants using government social services, people lined up before sunrise outside a state office in a largely Latino Phoenix neighborhood to sign up for food stamps and Medicaid.

No more.

“You had to arrive at 3 in the morning, and it might take you until the end of the day,” he said, pointing behind the office in the Maryvale neighborhood to show how long the lines got.

But no one lined up one recent weekday morning, and there were just a handful of people inside.

With new rules taking effect Monday that disqualify more people from green cards if they use government benefits, droves of immigrants, including citizens and legal residents, have dropped social services they or their children may be entitled to out of fear they will be kicked out of the U.S., said Velazquez and other advocates.

“This will bring more poverty, more homeless, more illness,” said Velasquez, a well-known leader among Spanish-speaking immigrants in the Phoenix area.

Advocates around the U.S. gathered Monday to discuss and criticize the policy.

Participants at a New York City roundtable said that in anticipation of the change, neighborhoods with higher immigrant populations had seen enrollment declines in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC. They also urged immigrants to get legal advice on how they may be affected.

In Boston, the Rev. Dieufort Fleurissaint said some Haitian immigrants worry that accepting benefits could keep their relatives from coming to the U.S.

Bethany Li, of Greater Boston Legal Services, said Chinese families are passing on WIC benefits not covered by the new rules.

The guidelines that aim to determine whether immigrants seeking legal residency may become a government burden are part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to reduce immigration, particularly among poorer people.

The rules that critics say amount to a “wealth test” were set to take effect in October but were delayed by legal challenges alleging a violation of due process under the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court last month cleared the way for the Trump administration to move forward while the rules were litigated in the courts.

A 5-4 vote Friday by the high court sided with the Trump administration by lifting a last injunction covering just Illinois, giving White House adviser Stephen Miller and other hardliners a resounding win in one of their boldest attempts to limit legal immigration.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a blistering dissent, criticizing the administration for quickly turning to the Supreme Court after facing losses in lower courts and suggesting that her conservative colleagues handled the litigation inconsistently in their desire to give Trump a victory.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Saturday that the change will “reestablish the fundamental legal principle that newcomers to our society should be financially self-reliant and not dependent on the largess of United States taxpayers.”

Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy Homeland Security secretary, said Monday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” that the change is “not a moral judgment on individuals, it is an economic one.”

He said the government expects “people seeking to be long-term immigrants here, and maybe join us as citizens, will be able to stand on their own two feet.” He said the rules were “a major priority for the president.”

Federal law already requires those seeking to permanent residency or legal status to prove they will not be a burden to the U.S. — a “public charge,” in government lingo. But the new rules include a wider range of programs that could disqualify them, including using Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers.

The chilling effect spreading through immigrant communities recalls how millions of refugees dumped social services during the welfare changes of the 1990s, even though the legislation that prompted the cuts explicitly exempted them.

Nazanin Ash, Washington-based vice president for global policy and advocacy for the nonprofit International Rescue Committee, pointed to research showing some 37 percent of refugees exempted from the Clinton-era changes in welfare benefits dropped food stamps they were entitled to.

Ash said the Trump administration rules would likely cause similar hardships for immigrants who contribute to the American economy.

“To call them a burden on society is factually incorrect,” she said.

The nonprofit Migration Policy Institute in Washington said in an August policy paper that it expects “a significant share” of the nearly 23 million noncitizens and U.S. citizens in immigrant families who use public benefits will drop them.

Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst with the institute, said the guidelines are so complicated that there have even been reports of parents dropping their kids’ free school lunches, which are not affected.

Gelatt noted that the rules apply only to social services used after Monday and do not affect citizens or most green card holders. Refugees vetted by federal agencies before their arrival, as well as people who obtain asylum, are not affected.

The guidelines don’t apply to many programs for children and pregnant and postnatal women, including Head Start early childhood education and WIC.

Nevertheless, Stephanie Santiago, who manages two Phoenix-area clinics for the nonprofit Mountain Park Health Center, said during the last three months of 2019 she suddenly saw scores of immigrants drop those and other benefits.

“People are very scared about the rules,” Santiago said. “The sad thing is that they even drop the services their U.S. citizen kids qualify for. A lot of these kids are going to school sick or their parents are paying out of pocket for services they should get for free.”

Cynthia Aragon, outreach coordinator for the nonprofit Helping Families in Need in Phoenix, said that because of the confusion, she is steering people to private sources of aid, like food banks and church-run clinics.

“I think people will start applying for government services again after it becomes clearer how things are going to work,” Aragon said. “In the meantime, we tell immigrants to look for some of the other resources out there and don’t feel like a victim.”

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17 COMMENTS

    • NYC is a sanctuary city. All criminals are welcome here. No bail necessary. Stop being a racist. They can get whatever they want for free. YOU pay your taxes so all the illegals can get their free goodies.

    • They pat very little taxes. I admire my goyta alot She is a hard worker. But she gets paid cash and doesn’t pay much taxes.

      I have heard these nonsesne studies that immigrants pay more thna they take. Its a fat lie. You really need to break that down to what “type” of immigrant. Asians in the tech sector or corp america pay alot, Latinos pay a little. They are good people to but those are the facts.

    • They get to use our infrastructure. Roads. Law and order etc.. social services are a moral issue as it requires to forcefully take money from individuals to pay for them. That is something goverment has no moral mandate for. Trump is right by making sure no new newcomers will exacerbate the problem.

  1. Yup this is the way it’s always been. When my ziedy came to Ellis island he needed to show he wee self sufficient. And if he kept Shabbos , no work in Monday. And there were no govt programs. He starved in the streets. We have nothing against immigrants , we are a welcoming immigrant nation. Give me your Hungary and poor but only if they don’t become a burden on us

    • Maybe your grandfather who starved on the streets of America can come to you in a dream from the Olam Haemes and tell you what he thinks of your statement.
      I think he would highly disapprove.

      • I left out the most important part.
        Do you also want to go back to the times when Jews were thrown out of jobs because they would not work on Shabbos ? Chas Veshalom!!!!!!!!!.
        America has improved for Jews because the Democrats have fought for all peoples rights. Why go backwards ?

        • Would those be the Democrats who kept out Jews in the 1930s? It’s a nice fantasy of yours that the Democrats “fought for all people[‘]s rights,” but like most such fantasies, it falls apart on even the most cursory analysis.

          • Then kindly tell me who was president from 1933-1945, and who kept out the passengers on the St. Louis, among others. Hint: not a Republican. Seems like you’re the one ignorant of history, and still desperately believing in “dem velt, yenem velt, Roosevelt.”

        • As I have often stated, the demcorats use to be our party. They fought for our needs. But as time evolves issues change. the threat of today is not the threat of yesteryear. Nowadays the issues are ,

          can schools fire LGBT teachers? (I don’t want my child to be taught by an LGBT)
          Do schools and places of worship need to provide gender neutral bathrooms?
          Can shicks bakery be forced to bake cakes for a gay weeding?
          Our tradion of metziza bpeh.
          Our tradition of kapparos.
          Private school funding
          Should schools be forced to teach subjects they don’t want to? Should the govt interfere in our schools? (more of a threat than russian interference)
          Who supports Israel?
          Should white collar criminals be given such hard sentences? (in our community it hurts us most)

          Your issues are long gone.

        • Now lets debunk this comment as well.

          Of course jews should be protected from shabbos. However, thats due to smart laws that protect our rights. its not because we can collect more progarms. We should still have to fend for ourselves. if you would advocate for immigrants rights in the work place I am all for that within reason. they should not be exploited. But don’t confuse that with free programs.

          And let me add many come here for the freebies. I don’t blame them as I would too. But we shouldn’t be providing monetary incentives

  2. To come into the US legally for many tens of years it has been required that you show you could support yourself financially or you had someone who pledged to support you. It was so when my ancestors came from Europe from before 1900 until now. This is not new, only now the government is checking up on, and by stopping, the many government assistance payments.

  3. wait I thought we benefit from that coming here even financially, these Mexican illegals flood the schools, fill up jails and hospitals and are HUGE anti Semites.

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