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Michigan advocates push back on new "public charge" rule

picture of the sign outside U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Advocates are encouraging immigrants in Michigan to study the new “public charge” rule before it takes effect in October.

The rule is meant to discourage immigrants from seeking public assistance.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined with 12 other top state attorneys to try to block the rule from taking effect.

“Michigan is home to tens of thousands of legal immigrants who have every legal right to receive certain benefits to provide food, health care and shelter for their families,” Nessel said in a statement posted Wednesday

An analysis by the Migration Policy Institute says the rule could affect up to 116,000 thousand people in Michigan.

Madihah Tariq is with ACCESS Community Health in Dearborn. She says the rule announcement is already having a chilling effect.

“We’ve had patients come in that are asking to be taken off things like WIC and Medicaid or  healthcare.gov even though they are not going to be impacted, because they feel like they are,” she said.

The rule makes it harder for immigrants to be granted permanent legal status in the U.S. if they’ve enrolled in certain assistance programs.

But the rule would not apply to refugees seeking asylum, and they may not affect undocumented immigrants who are already prevented from seeking permanent legal status.

Tania Morris is an attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. She says even if the rule stands, the changes won’t go into effect until October.

“We are encouraging the community to take these two months before the rule goes into effect to understand the changes and what they could mean for their families,” Morris says.

The rule, and a list of frequently asked questions, are available online here.  

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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