Michigan is one of 13 states challenging a new Trump Administration rule that sets restrictions on which legal immigrants are eligible to stay in the United States as permanent residents.
On October 15 of this year, immigrants will be refused a green card if they’ve used or appear likely to use government benefit programs such as subsidized housing, food stamps, or Medicaid.
The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute estimates that over 10 million non-citizens — including 116,000 in Michigan — are part of families who have received public benefits.
The state attorneys general challenging this rule argue that it would cause "irreparable harm” and deter non-citizens from seeking "essential" public assistance.
William Lopez is part of a team of researchers at the University of Michigan who are studying the impact of rapidly-changing immigration policies on families in Detroit and Washtenaw County. He’s also the author of the upcoming book Separated: Family and Community in the Aftermath of an Immigration Raid.
Lopez explains that even before the administration announced this particular rule change, non-citizens have been concerned about the possibility that applying for government services would impact their ability to stay in the United States. Now, he says, that fear has been codified into reality with the announcement of the public charge ruling.
Although this particular ruling only applies to services that individuals apply for, Lopez says that the fear of losing one’s green card or being deported can make people “question everything they’re applying for,” including government programs that support families and children.
In response to the charge that government resources shouldn’t be used to support non-citizens, Lopez says that the reality often isn’t that simple. He notes that many families and communities are “mixed status,” meaning that some green card holders may be married to undocumented immigrants, and parents may hold different citizenship statuses than their American-born children.
The looming sense of uncertainty that comes with changing immigration laws like the public charge ruling put serious stress on individuals and families, according to Lopez.
“As research shows — and I think that many of us as parents or just perhaps as people know — it is hard to build a healthy family with a parent removed or with the threat of a parent possibly removed every day,” he said.
Lopez says that programs like supplemental food, income, and housing assistance help individuals lead better lives, which gives them the opportunity to participate more actively in society. Having access to those programs allows non-citizens to keep themselves “and their communities healthy.”
“And what do folks do with healthier, longer lives? They get jobs, they go to school, they get educated, and then they pay taxes, buy into the economy,” Lopez said. “So there [are] repercussions that come with not being able to stay healthy in the early days and the early years when you arrive to a country.”
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas.