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Democrats Speak Out Against Regulation That Seeks To Limit Immigrants' Use Of Public Services

Congresswoman-Elect Donna Shalala, center, said if the Public Charge Rule gets expanded, that it will affect hundreds of thousands of people in South Florida.
Caitie Switalski
Congresswoman-Elect Donna Shalala, center, said if the Public Charge Rule gets expanded, that it will affect hundreds of thousands of people in South Florida.

The Trump administration has proposed expanding a policy that would deny green cards to immigrants who access certain public benefits, like food stamps and Medicaid.

That would expand the list of services that some people seeking green cards get penalized for using.

Democrats in Congress spoke out against the proposed regulation in Sunrise Monday morning.

“This proposed rule change has sewn confusion and prompted immigrant families to start avoiding programs they need to raise healthy and productive children,” Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said.

She teamed up with Congresswoman-Elect Donna Shalala to urge the public to against the proposed expansion of the so-called Public Charge Rule.

The Public Charge Rule affects people who are on a path to permanent residency - people who are seeking a green card to stay in the U.S. indefinitely, but not to be a citizen. It refers to people who rely on government funding, calling them "public charges." It includes people with protected statuses, like TPS and DACA. However, the expanded regulation would not apply to anyone seeking U.S. citizenship.

The Trump Administration has been considering the policy change since earlier this year, when the Dept. of Homeland Security sent the proposal to the White House's Office Of Management and Budget. A 60-day public comment period began in October; the deadline to submit comments is 11:59 p.m. Monday.

Congress will not have to vote on the proposal, because it is classified as a regulation, not legislation.

The Dept. of Homeland Security is required to consider public comment before revising or publishing the regulation. After that, the office has to release the final version of the rule, which will go into effect 60 days after the final version is released.

Wasserman Schultz's office cited an analysis that estimates 2 million people in Florida could be impacted by the expanded regulation, including 600,000 children at risk of losing their health insurance.

“Right here in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties it could impact nearly a million people,” she said.

Read More: Congresswoman-Elect Donna Shalala Wants Protected Status For Venezuelans And Nicaraguans

Shalala said programs like CHIP, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, have already seen a decline in registrations because people are afraid that it will affect their ability to get a green card. She said that could get worse if the expansion passes.

“So we’ll have millions of children - literally thousands in our South Florida community - who are being withdrawn from public programs that they are eligible for, like Medicaid, like the CHIP program, like the SNAP program (food stamps).”

The policy could prevent children who were born in the U.S. from receiving healthcare services, if one of their parents is on a path to a green card and is not a citizen.

“What it’s really doing is putting so much fear in the community that people who are undocumented or on one of these pathways, are not registering their American-born children for the programs they are eligible for,” Shalala said. “That scares us to death.”

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Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.