Local families dropping out of food stamps, Medicaid in fear of new public charge rule


Some green card holders are afraid if they, or their kids, sign up for these benefits, they're going to be barred from becoming citizens.

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KFTA) — Local families are dropping out of Medicaid and SNAP programs because of an expansion of a rule the Trump administration is rolling out.

It’s called the public charge rule, and it seeks to stop immigrants who will need public assistance from living in the country. It’s expected to be in place by October 15.

As the start date for the initiative draws closer, Northwest Arkansas immigration groups are working to stop it while local Republicans are saying it’s a necessity.

It’s a change to a long-standing rule, tightening restrictions on who can cross the U.S. border.

“Individuals who hope to get either a visa or green card in this country, but are connected to individuals citizens with public benefits; they could be denied the opportunity to get a visa or come to this country,” said Mireya Reith, the founding executive director of Arkansas United.

The public charge rule aims to slow legal immigration by stopping those who are likely to use government benefits; an idea Arkansas Senator Bart Hester said he can get behind.

“Certainly we have empathy for people who need these services,” he said. “But, the reality is the American people have paid into these systems their whole lives and it is for the people who have paid for it.”

While the rule was created for new green card and visa applicants, the buzz around the new rule is causing confusion for legal immigrants who already live in the Natural State.

Reith said, “There’s mass panic in our community and we’re seeing as a result children not signing up for ARKids, we’re seeing families not taking advantage of food stamps or federally assisted programs.”

Reith adds these green card holders are afraid if they, or their kids, sign up for these benefits, they’re going to be barred from becoming citizens.

“They have paid into our system. They have paid into our tax base and now they are not taking advantage of these programs because of fears of implications toward their citizenship for the future,” she said.

Senator Hester said, “If you have legal status to be here, and you have the right to pay into the system, then you have the right to use these services. If you do not have legal services to be here, then you should not be using these services. That is taking from someone that paid for them that needs them.”

Again, his new rule is geared towards those hoping to get a visa or green card in the country, not to people who are already legally living here.

“Our country is charged with taking care of us, and other people’s home countries should take care of them and if they don’t they need to fight to change that,” Senator Hester said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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