Immigration Attorneys Counsel Worried Clients Amid Confusion Over Trump’s Planned Green Card Rules

As soon as it was announced that the Trump administration was proposing a sweeping change to limit the number of immigrants who can receive green cards based on their use of government benefits, the phone started ringing nonstop in Liza Galindo’s office.

The immigration attorney in Miami Springs, Fla., said it’s been difficult to advise her clients about what they should do because the proposed rules, to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register, won’t go into effect for months and could change significantly before then.

“Unfortunately, we have to wait and see until it passes,” she said. “What I advise them is, ‘We don’t know yet.'”

That combination of fear and confusion created by the new 447 pages of rules is partly by design, according to the Trump administration’s proposal.

At its core, the new rules would vastly expand the kinds of government benefits that, if used by immigrants, would disqualify them from becoming legal permanent residents. The Department of Homeland Security says the use of benefits is an indication that the immigrant is likely to become a “public charge” dependent on government services at some point in the future.

But the proposal goes even farther, explicitly stating that “concern about the consequences” of using any public benefit is likely to drive immigrants out of programs “even if such individuals are otherwise eligible to receive benefits.”

David Super, a professor of law at Georgetown University who studies poverty and inequality, said the government’s efforts to promote uncertainty has created a “chilling effect” among immigrants who are now paranoid of government services they are legally entitled to.

For example, while most immigrants cannot get food stamps or federal housing assistance, they can use the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC. That federal program provides help to pregnant women, those who are breastfeeding, and children up to age 5 who are determined to be at nutritional risk.

By Alan Gomez for USA TODAY
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