Immigrants using public aid could be denied permanent residency status under proposed rule

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A proposed rule by the Department of Homeland Security could deny immigrants who legally use public aid for food, health and housing of their green cards.

The proposal was officially posted on the U.S. Federal Register Wednesday, now a 60-day comment period has opened up. Its goal is to keep out those who may become a "public charge," a term for a person who is likely to rely on the government for assistance.

Experts say the proposed rule would affect many green card-seeking immigrants who are related to U.S. citizens. Some are parents to U.S.- born children.

"Say you have a U.S. citizen child who receives benefits through the Temporary Assistance And Needy Families Program. Now that adult parent would be prohibited from lawful permanent residence, even if they were otherwise eligible to do so," said Geoffrey Lacy, an immigration lawyer with Strang, Patteson, Renning, Lewis and Lacy Law Firm in Green Bay.

The proposal says there are exceptions with waivers or bonds in the amount of at least $10,000.

"Presumably if they have financial constraints, the purchase of a bond would be extremely expensive as well," Lacy adds.

Casa Alba Melanie, a Green Bay organization that helps connect immigrant families to job, housing, food and health agencies, say this proposal is causing fear in immigrant families.

"We have talked to people who are really afraid now. They don't know what to do in trying to get help for their family and for their children, and it's another blow to the poor, the disadvantaged, the marginalized, and it seems to be the modus operandi of this administration," said Father Ken DeGroot, co-founder of Casa Alba Melanie in Green Bay.

Lacy says any type of public aid green card seekers are using now could possibly be used against them later on.

"Even though it's not technically at this point strictly prohibited under the law, anybody who receives those benefits has to expect that it's going to be part of the analysis," said Lacy.

"If this law goes through, they will not be seeking that type of help or any type of help for their children,” said Father DeGroot.

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