SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — There are heightened concerns over a proposed federal policy that many say attacks legal immigrants.
The proposal would essentially penalize applicants if they or their family have used programs like the Affordable Care Act subsidies, food stamps, even some forms of Medicaid.
“People are really concerned about what choices they’ll have to make if they want to adjust their status,” said immigration advocate Janeth Rodriguez.
Critics say the policy could penalize legal immigrants whose families receive public benefits and make it more difficult for them to get citizenship.
Some immigration attorneys say if this policy is implemented it would be the most significant change to legal immigration in decades. They add it could also affect millions of would-be citizens.
In Sacramento, the plan is already stirring up emotions.
“Clients are calling to see if they need to cancel their benefits—there’s a lot of anxiety,” said Immigration attorney Raissa Morris.
Morris says she’s received a number of calls with people concerned about how their use of certain government assistance programs could potentially affect their ability to obtain a green card or citizenship.
“If anyone in the household is receiving any public benefits even if children are receiving Medi-Cal, or the spouse, then that could mean the applicant could be denied their right to citizenship or residency in the future,” said Morris.
“That could mean those parents may have to decide between the health of their child or their immigration process, basically,” said Morris.
“It could impact people whose children are citizens,” said Rodriguez.
Like in the case of DACA recipient Jocelyne Billheren.
“All the time it’s on my mind, I ask how this is gonna impact me?” said Bilihern
She’s worried about any negative impact it could have on her application process since her 2-year-old, who is a citizen, receives medical benefits.
“My daughter has to have those benefits, but should I stop them?” she asks.
Morris is not ruling out the possibility.
“If they fix their status to become a resident, it could affect Dreamers in the future.”
Morris adds for now, it’s wait and see.
“If it is implemented, we have to look at it on a case by case basis if its worth it for them to give up this benefit, depending on what it is, or how it will affect their family,” said Morris.
The immigrant community now confronted with a new fear wondering “could this be a way to limit legal immigrants in the U.S?”
“They make it a lot harder for clients to reach their goals of staying with their families in the U.S., so sure this could be one such strategy,” said attorney Rachel Ray with UC Immigrant Legal Services Center.
The White House has been reviewing the proposal since March but concerns over potential lawsuits have delayed any final approval.
Morris suggests people seek legal counsel to better educate themselves on their rights and the best next steps.