Trump admin proposing tightening rules for legal immigrants who use medical, food assistance

The Trump administration is proposing to tighten the existing rules for legal immigrants who use medical or food assistance.

If they do use such assistance, they would give up their rights to seek a green card giving them permanent legal status.

More than 30,000 patients are served by the International Health Clinic in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District. Managers say half of them are immigrants.

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They're now afraid the Trump administration will count using federal aid against those who want to apply for permanent legal residency.

“These families come into our public health clinics asking to terminate services or decline services that they are legally eligible to receive,” King County Public Health Director Patty Hayes said at a news conference.

Today, a portable breast cancer clinic offered screenings.

Health advocate Silvia Kennedy told us about two women willing to risk their lives with cancer, rather than accept medical help that immigration authorities might count against them.

“They were very scared, so what they decided was to stop the treatment and not to go back to the hospital. They stopped their cancer treatment? They stopped their cancer treatment.”  Kennedy said the women did eventually resume treatment after being reassured the rule had not yet taken effect.

Cracking down on immigration has been a key part of Trump's platform.

“Word gets out and yes I think it's appropriate that those people that want to take advantage of America’s generosity…and people can't abuse us as they did during the Obama administration," said Craig Kelley of Respect Washington.

There have always been rules against admitting immigrants who might become a public burden. But advocates, like Jorge Baron of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, see this proposed rule as something different.

“I think this is just part and parcel of what the administration has been doing, which is to make the lives of immigrant refugees miserable,” Baron said.

The Trump administration rule is not yet in effect, so advocates are telling immigrants not to panic and not to withdraw from any health care or nutrition programs right now.