Eleven Utah groups that advocate for the poor — plus the mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake county — are protesting a proposed change by the Trump administration that could order deportation of legal immigrants if they accept food stamps or Medicaid.
That “may lead to increased poverty, hunger, unmet health care needs and trauma for communities across Utah,” according to a joint statement by groups that include Utahns Against Hunger, Catholic Community Services, Comunidades Unidas and Crossroads Urban Center.
The Trump administration is proposing to change how officials determine whether immigrants attempting to obtain or continue “green cards,” allowing permanent residency, are likely to become a “public charge.”
If officials determine that applicants are likely to be heavily dependent on government assistance — a “public charge” — they are less likely to be approved.
Until now, accepting Food Stamps, Medicaid or participating in public housing by immigrants — or their U.S. citizen children — was not considered in that determination. Officials did consider whether an applicant received federal, state or local welfare assistance.
The joint statement by the Utah groups expresses worry that people who need the heretofore allowed assistance may now avoid it to help ensure that they can remain in the country.
“We fear the rule could chill access to critical programs that help Utahns and their families access essential needs including health care, food and housing,” it said.
“The proposed rule ignores the contributions of working immigrants who are valued members of our Utah communities and no more likely to use public benefits than citizens and we believe it runs counter to Utah values.”
The groups — including Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski — urged Utah leaders to speak out against the rule, and “instead work with immigrant communities to build policies that support immigrants as healthy, productive and successful members of American society.”
Other groups that signed include Racially Just Utah, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake, Voice for Utah Children, Coalition of Religious Communities, Utahns Health Policy Project, Alliance for a Better Utah and the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake.