California still expanding benefits to some immigrants, despite Trump public charge rule
JANUARY 29, 2020 01:48 PM
Proposed rule for public charge causes fear and confusion
Mario Gonzalez, who oversees the immigration department at Centro La Familia, talks about the proposed rule for what would be considered a public charge. BY YESENIA AMARO
Despite the U.S. Supreme Court siding with the Trump administration in a recent ruling on a controversial rule about undocumented immigrants who use public benefits, California this year expanded benefits to immigrant residents.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled to allow the Trump administration to proceed with the public charge rule. The rule would make it harder for immigrants to get a green card if they have received federally-funded public benefits— or are likely to depend on them.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and advocates this week promised to continue fighting against the public rule change, calling the Trump administrations efforts an attempt to “terrorize immigrant families.”
But California is already using state funds to expand public benefits, such as full-scope Medi-Cal, to insure some populations of undocumented immigrants living in the state.
For example, undocumented young adults, ages 19 through 26, in California earlier this month became eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal benefits under a new state law.
Angela Stillwell, a program manager with the Fresno County Department of Social Services, said those benefits are paid for by the state and wouldn’t count as a public charge. The same goes for recipients of the California Food Assistance Program.
The rule only applies to federally funded public benefits. “I think that’s super important that people understand,” she said.
Most people who are receiving public benefits already are legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens. “They will not be subject to the public charge rule,” Stillwell said.
She also said the rule won’t affect mixed-status families receiving public benefits.
For DACA recipients (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the new rule will not affect two-year work-permit renewals, but will come into play if DACA recipients seek to adjust their status to become a legal permanent resident.
Those who would be subject to the public charge rule include people trying to enter the country on a visa, and those already in the country trying to adjust their status to become a legal permanent resident. There are some who are exempt from the rule, including refugees.
“It really only applies for people applying for a green card really through a family member or employer,” Stillwell said.
NEWSOM PLEDGES TO FIGHT FEDERAL RULE
Newsom in a statement this week said the court’s decision will be “devastating” as California families already are going without food and medical care because of the rule.
“California is actively reviewing the decision to determine next steps and provide further guidance to impacted Californians,” he said. “California will continue to fight against these efforts to terrorize immigrant families.”
In his January proposed budget, Newsom proposed funding to expand Medi-Cal benefits to undocumented immigrants, age 65 and older.
A public charge is when an undocumented immigrant receives public benefit for more than 12 months within any 36-month period.
The new rule expands the government’s definition of a public burden to include benefits, such as food stamps, housing vouchers and subsidies, federally-funded Medicaid, known as Medi-Cal in California, and prescriptions for the elderly, according to the policy.
First proposed in 2018, the rule sparked fear and confusion in immigrant communities, prompting some families to reconsider getting public benefits.
The California Latino Legislative Caucus also responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling to allow the rule to move forward.
“We are disappointed that this administration continues to try to re-write the rules of the American Dream, allowing access only to the rich and powerful,” Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and chairwoman of the caucus, said in the statement. “This policy is short-sighted and un-American.”
SUPPORT OF PUBLIC CHARGE RULE
Still, there are many who’ve voiced support of the Trump administration’s efforts on the public charge rule.
Fred Vanderhoof, chairman of the Fresno County Republican Party, said local Republicans support “the president and the Supreme Court on this case.” He declined to elaborate further.
Ken Oliver, senior director on Engagement and Right on Immigration for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, in a news release said the court’s ruling was a “welcome development.”
“The reality is our nation’s social safety programs, including for health care, nutritional assistance and housing, operate with limited resources and were created in the first place to be there for current, bona fide members of our body politic,” he said in the release. “ Their use by prospective new lawful residents and citizens should be extremely limited.” The rule is about fiscal responsibility, he added.
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