OLYMPIA - Washington State is expressing the desire to fight a federal change to a rule that denies green cards to legal immigrants. In a press release on Monday, Washington State Attorney Bob Ferguson announced the following: 

“The Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda continues today with the announcement of proposed changes to the public charge rule,” Ferguson said. “These changes force legally present immigrant families into a Hobson’s choice — to sacrifice their dream of becoming Americans in order to provide health care, food or a roof over their children’s heads, or let their families go without in order to remain in the country. That’s a choice they should not have to make, and we’re taking a close look at whether or not this action is legal.” 

In December of 2018, the Trump Administration proposed a rule that changes the definition of a “public charge,” an individual who is entirely dependent on public assistance to survive. The change would allow immigration officials to label any immigrant who utilizes public benefits such as housing assistance, health care or food assistance, at any time in the future as a “public charge”. Those labeled as a public charge would be denied visas and permanent residency and possible deportation. 

Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee sent a letter criticizing the rule in December 2018. Ferguson joined 18 other attorneys general who expressed concerns in a separate letter. The two letters were a fraction of the 250,000 comments the state department of human and health services received in response to the proposed rule.

Ferguson says the rule would hurt Washingtonians: more than an estimated 140,000 legal immigrants could lose health insurance as a direct result of the rule. Ferguson also believes that needy families would lose up to an estimated $55 million annually in food and cash assistance.

Ken Cuccinelli II, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says it would allow the government to insist that immigrants who to the country be self-sufficient and not be a drain on society.

“The benefit to taxpayers is a long-term benefit of seeking to ensure that our immigration system is bringing people to join us as American citizens, as legal permanent residents first, who can stand on their own two feet, who will not be reliant on the welfare system, especially in the age of the modern welfare state which is so expansive and expensive,” Cuccinelli told the New York Times.

Several immigration support groups have pledged to sue the administration in an attempt to block the regulation from taking effect.

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