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Utahns Speak Out Against Proposed Immigration Rule

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Many new immigrants to the U.S. start out in low-wage jobs. Gina Cornia says that shouldn't count against them when they apply for green cards. (amira_a/Flickr)
Many new immigrants to the U.S. start out in low-wage jobs. Gina Cornia says that shouldn't count against them when they apply for green cards. (amira_a/Flickr)
October 12, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – Many Utahns are speaking out this week following a Trump administration proposal to broaden the factors that determine which legal immigrants can get green cards. The so-called "Public Charge" rule would allow the government to consider whether legal immigrants have used, or are likely to use, public-assistance programs such as food stamps, Medicaid or housing assistance, when making decisions about issuing green cards.

Gina Cornia, executive director with Utahns Against Hunger, worries the proposal would scare people from seeking assistance that their families qualify for, and need.

"Because then they'll think, 'Well, if I go on food stamps, I'm not going to be able to get my green card.' Or if they get benefits for their children, it's going to impact them; and it's just a very nuanced, very confusing policy," says Cornia.

The Department of Homeland Security says it wants to ensure immigrants are self-sufficient. But Cornia says it's a misconception that people who use public assistance don't work.

She says this policy would favor high-income people while punishing those who take on the low-wage jobs relied on by many new immigrants. A 60 day comment period on the proposal is now open.

Several Utah groups are speaking out, including Voices for Utah Children, the Utah Health Policy Project, and Comunidades Unidas.

Cornia says the policy targets an important community in the state.

"Particularly for Utah, we have been a state that really welcomes immigrants,” says Cornia. “And this proposed rule really will have a negative effect on people who are able to come here and call this place home, and I just don't believe that that is who we are."

The groups also are calling on Utah's state and congressional lawmakers to speak out against the proposal.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - UT