People can now officially weigh in on a proposal by the Trump administration to punish legal permanent residents who have used certain public benefits by making it harder for them to get a green card or visa.
The proposal comes despite studies that show legal permanent residents use benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid at rates similar to U.S. citizens.
The rule change appeared in the Federal Register last Wednesday, kicking off a 60-day public comment period on the website Regulations.gov. Ben Monterroso, executive director of the Latino support group Mi Familia Vota, sees the move as cruel. "It's trying to continue the narrative that President Trump did that immigrants are bad people and freeloaders, lazy people and criminals," he states. "It's another attack on the Latino community."
Monterroso points out that undocumented migrants aren't eligible for most kinds of public assistance.
The Department of Homeland Security says people who receive these types of aid should be declared a "public charge," which would count against them if they apply for a green card or visa.
The rule would also make it harder to get a green card for people who make less than $15,000 a year, regardless of whether they receive public benefits.
Monterroso says he hopes voters will remember this issue in the November elections.
"They've been attacking the community expecting and hoping that the community's not going to defend themselves, but I think it's gone too far," he states. "This is the time that we can use our power to elect people that actually respect the community and see us as part of the country, and not as strangers that can be disposable workers."
The move is part of a series of federal actions targeting the immigrant community, some of which are tied up in litigation, including termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs, stepped up immigration raids, separating parents and children at the border and moves to end the policy that allows migrants to sponsor family members to come to the U.S.