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AG Kilmartin Announces Opposition to Trump's Latest Attack on Legal Immigration

Trump Administration's proposed overhaul of certain immigration laws would force legal immigrants to risk their immigration status in order to access healthcare, housing assistance, and other programs

Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today joined a coalition of attorneys general and attorneys general-elect opposing President Trump's latest effort to attack, demonize, and marginalize immigrants in Rhode Island and around the country. The Trump Administration has proposed a radical overhaul of so-called "public charge" rules that could make it easier to deny adjustment of status to lawful immigrants, reject green card applications, or even remove lawful immigrants from the country if they utilize certain healthcare, nutrition, or housing programs. The proposed rule could even force lawful immigrants to make an inhumane choice of whether to protect their lawful immigration status or risk it by accessing healthcare programs or other programs for which they are already eligible.

Attorney General Kilmartin and his colleagues filed official comments today, co-written by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, explaining why the rule is both unlawful and bad policy that would cause significant harm to Rhode Island and its residents.

"Sadly, this is just the latest example of this administration's cold-hearted disregard for the health, welfare and dignity of individuals who are simply trying to make a better life for themselves and their children. Making decisions about something as important as one's immigration status based on their use of services, or worse, a perceived need of services, and then labeling people based on these assessments, is not how our country should operate and is not an America that I even recognize," said Attorney General Kilmartin.

So-called "public charge" rules have existed in immigration law for several decades. They have been understood to allow governments to deny entry to potential immigrants who are likely to become "primarily dependent" on public assistance.

The Trump Administration's proposal would upend decades of established practice and make lawful immigration much more difficult by: 1) Greatly expanding the scope of services that can be considered in determining whether someone is likely to be "primarily dependent" on public assistance to include Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and housing assistance; 2) Significantly lowering the threshold for declaring someone a likely "public charge" to as low as $150 per month; and, 3) Potentially exposing immigrant children to being labeled a "public charge" if they are enrolled in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Once a lawful immigrant has been labeled a "public charge," he or she may be unable to successfully apply for a green card or adjust immigration status, and may even be removed from the country.

In their comments, Attorney General Kilmartin and his colleagues argue that the proposed changes will be "destabilizing, discriminatory, and will cause harm to immigration populations and to the States," particularly in regard to healthcare costs, which can be expected to climb as immigrants avoid healthcare programs like Medicaid and instead seek expensive emergency care. The proposed rule would also discriminate against people with disabilities and non-English speakers. In addition to being bad public policy, Attorney General Kilmartin and his colleagues believe that the proposed rule violates federal law because the Trump Administration has not presented appropriate evidence or analysis to justify the radical changes it has proposed. The proposed rule also violates Executive Orders governing the issuance of new regulations.

Joining Attorney General Kilmartin in submitting today's comments are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington DC, and the attorneys general-elect of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, and New York.

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