Prior to Trump’s ‘public charge’ rule, state reminds immigrants of rights to public benefits

Immigrant rights rally at the Capitol, July 12, 2019 | Derek Robertson

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is reminding immigrants of their rights after the President Trump administration’s so-called “public charge rule” was finalized last month. 

The new rule, if passed, would bar illegal and legal immigrants who receive public benefits, including food stamps, Medicaid, welfare or housing assistance, from gaining citizenship

Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon | Casey Hull

MDHHS Director Robert Gordon says the rule is much less extensive than many have been led to believe. 

In an open letter issued on Tuesday, Gordon said, “We are all stronger when human beings can live with greater security and dignity by getting the help they are entitled to under our laws. We must not discourage individuals from getting benefits based on misunderstandings.”

According to Gordon, the proposed rule does not affect individuals who are already citizens or are in the application or renewal process for a green card. The rule only affects legal immigrants if they leave the country for more than six months and need approval for readmission. 

Additionally, the MDHHS wants families to know eligible children are not exempt from public assistance under the new rule.

“Eligible children can and should continue receiving benefits consistent with state and federal law, regardless of the immigration status of their parents,” said Gordon. 

Study: New Trump admin rule cracking down on legal immigrants could impact 300K in Michigan

Furthermore, receipt of benefits by family members will not affect individuals in their application for citizenship. 

Emergency Medicaid, Medicaid coverage for pregnant women and Medicaid coverage for those younger than 21 will not be held against an immigrant under the rule. 

Other categories exempt from the rule and can still receive public assistance include refugees, asylees, U-visa or T-visa recipients, Violence Against Women Act, and special immigrant juveniles. 

“As I have learned in community meetings around the state, there are many harmful misunderstandings regarding the rule,” Gordon said. “These misunderstandings deter individuals from seeking help even though they are in the United States lawfully, they are eligible for assistance, they will benefit from assistance, and their immigration status will not be affected by getting assistance.”

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The rule was finalized on Aug. 12 and is expected to go into effect on Oct. 15.

In August, the nonprofit Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) reported the public charge rule could indirectly affect almost 300,000 people in Michigan and would have a negative impact on the state’s economy.

President Donald J. Trump lands in Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House Sunday, July 21, 2019. | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead, Flickr

Following the finalization of the rule, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a dozen other colleagues from around the country in suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for what they believe violates the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

“We cannot and must not allow this morally bankrupt [Trump] administration to undermine the very fiber of a country that was built on providing a helping hand to those who came to our shores from other nations — and which sacred values are enshrined on our Statue of Liberty. We are better than this,” Nessel said in a statement released in August. 

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