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Proposal could cause immigrants to avoid accessing benefits

A Trump administration proposal that has been leaked could have negative repercussions for immigrants in Colorado who are seeking permanent residency. The proposal would make it less likely for a person's application for permanent residency to be approved if they have used certain non-cash government benefits including tax credits, food stamps, subsidized Affordable Care Act plans or Medicaid. They could also be affected by family members, including children who are citizens, using those benefits.

Healthcare professionals and immigration advocates say the proposal is a threat to public health. Without access to regular medical care, legal immigrants may turn to emergency rooms instead. Some professionals who work with immigrant communities say that people are already shying away from accessing services such as the nutrition program for women, infants and children. Others are avoiding Medicaid re-enrollment.

The basis for the proposal is a concept from the 19th century known as the "public charge." Essentially, it aims to bar immigrants who are likely to become dependent on government services. However, in 1999, it was clarified that this does not include access to non-cash benefits and programs. The proposal would change these rules. It would also affect people who have conditions such as heart disease or cancer who have turned to government programs for assistance.

With this and other immigration laws in flux, people who are seeking permanent residency, who need to renew their green cards or who have other immigration concerns may want to consult an attorney. The attorney may be able to assist with the necessary paperwork as well as advise about any changes or potential changes to immigration law that might affect the person's status or the status of loved ones. People whose green card renewal was denied for any reason may also want to consult an attorney to find out what their options are.

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