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Misinformation on new rule causes concern among immigrants in Utah

Posted at 5:18 PM, Feb 24, 2020

LAYTON, Utah — A sweeping new change to U.S. immigration policy went into effect Monday.

After the Supreme Court lifted an order Friday, the Trump Administration is implementing a public charge rule.

It means people applying for a green card or VISA will be judged on their income and education levels.

It also takes into account if they have used, or may use, public assistance such as food stamps, Medicaid, Section 8 housing assistance and public housing.

Rumors of possible deportation for any immigrant seeking help has many pulling back from services of which they qualify.

At the Open Door Food Pantry in Layton, staff has noticed a decrease in immigrants seeking help.

“I think it’s a perception that we are going to rat them out and it is going to hurt them,” Community Action Partnership of Utah Executive Director Clint Cottam said.

While the food is considered assistance, it’s not government run and will not hurt a green card or visa application.

Even if it was, Cottam said legal status doesn’t matter with their food, heating, tax preparation or Head Start programs.

“I think the misinformation on the rule is causing harm because a lot of our programs don’t have these requirements and we are definitely not reporting to immigration and Homeland Security,” Cottam said.

Fears of accepting any help concerns immigrant activists.

In fact, very few people in Utah are affected by the public charge rule, according to immigration attorney Alyssa Williams.

“It only penalizes those who are receiving a benefit in their own name. That actually is a population that probably doesn’t exist because the Department of Workforce Services does their job. They’ve checked their status,” Williams said.

Williams, who works for Catholic Community Services in Salt Lake City, worries a non-legal mother would stop getting food stamps to feed her legal children.

“Any benefit that they might have received, they are receiving for a child and those people are completely not touched by this rule,” Williams said.

Williams adds the public charge rule affects people who are in the process of coming to the US, including elderly parents of US citizens or people seeking a student visa.

Those here now, she says, should accept the help they need.