US senators seek to block Trump's 'public charge' rule

Don Tagala, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 19 2019 02:04 AM

NEW YORK, United States—US senators on Tuesday introduced legislation that would block the Trump administration's revised "public charge" rule.

"The public charge rule vastly expands the basis on which the administration can keep people out of our country and prevent people from staying in our country," Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said.

The bill called "Protect America Values Act" will prohibit using federal funds to implement, administer or enforce the Department of Homeland Security's expanded "public charge" rule.

The new rule allows the Trump administration to deny entry visas or green cards to immigrants who used certain public assistance programs, such as the government-run health program Medicaid and subsidized housing.

"That’s huge amount of discretionary power to our immigration authorities. If they think that you might access these kinds of benefits, they can deny you," Hirono said.

The US government considers whether someone can support themselves financially or if they are at risk of becoming public liability, known as "public charge."

Immigrant rights advocates said only a few are going to be affected by the new rule.

"Most people who are non-citizens are not eligible for most of the benefits," said John Park, executive director of MinKwon Center for Community Action.

"The primary issue however is that because there’s so much confusion and misinformation, a lot of people who will not be at all impacted are disenrolling in benefits," he added.

Some 1.2 percent of Asian-American in New York have disenrolled while some 10 percent of non-US citizens have abandoned their public benefits, Park said.

"What our Filipino community needs to remember is that number one do not let go of benefits. If it's needed, go for it because we can always ask for the waiver later on. Which is why it is always important to contact people who can help you, either attorneys or city government," said immigration lawyer Maria Lara Gregory.

At least 16 states have sued to block the implementation of the new "public charge" rule, saying it is unconstitutional and can deprive states of funds for social programs.

The new "public charge" ground for immigration inadmissibility is expected to go into effect on Oct. 15.

Read more on Balitang America.