New immigration rules stir fear and confusion

Over the past two weeks, the Immigration Counseling Program at Lutheran Community Services NW has been flooded with calls from the local immigrant community.

Guest Writer

Jordan Robinson has served as district director of Lutheran Community Services’ Yamhill County operations for 12 years. Holder of a master’s degree in social work, he has a passion for developing and implementing programs supporting children and families. He lives on a small farm outside McMinnville with his wife, Megan, and children Molly, Katie and Sam.

Guest Writer

Miriam Vargas Corona Miriam Vargas Corona serves as executive director of the Unidos Bridging Community. A first-generation immigrant from Mexico, she was raised in Dayton. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Linfield College. She and her husband, Jesus, have two boys, Jayden and Benji.

Callers are concerned about how the new “public charge” rules will affect their immigration applications. They are fearful that recently announced changes in the Federal Immigration Policy will result in the deportation of a family member.

Lutheran Community Services NW and Unidos Bridging Community have worked together diligently for more than five years to alleviate fear and uncertainty among local immigrant families, and ensure they have consistent and reliable access to information and services. Our citizenship classes, legal screenings, family preparedness Know Your Rights sessions and representation services have reached thousands of Yamhill County’s immigrant and mixed-status families.

But recent rhetoric out of Washington, including the new “public charge” rule changes, have bred fear and confusion. Families are concerned their previous efforts to work within the rules could now put them in danger of being torn apart.

To complicate matters, misinformation circulating through major Spanish-language news sources and social media have led people to believe any immigrant receiving public benefits could be deported, regardless of his or her legal status. Fortunately, that’s not the case.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services hasn’t provided clarity for immigrants, immigration attorneys or even its own officers, who will be responsible for adjudicating decisions under the new Final Rule provisions. Here’s an example of the kind of confusion that can trigger:

Earlier this spring, Lutheran Community Services’ McMinnville office assisted newlyweds Amelia and Antonio in obtaining a green card for Amelia, recognizing her legal permanent resident status.

Amelia, now 25, was brought to the U.S. on a tourist visa at the age of 2. As a result, life in America is all she can remember.

Amelia’s family decided to stay in the U.S. Because she qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, she was able to obtain a college degree, a Social Security number, a work permit and a driver’s license.

While in college, Amelia was encouraged to apply for food stamps under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. She informed the SNAP worker that she was covered by DACA, presented her government-issued documents and was approved.

Each quarter for two years, she returned to the Department of Human Services office to review her eligibility. But during her final renewal appointment, she was informed that she did not qualify for food stamps and never had.

She was confused. But she immediately offered to pay back the support she had received and stop using the benefit.

Last year, Amelia and her husband completed her application for legal permanent residence. It included a sworn statement regarding SNAP benefits.

Under the new rule, the mistaken award of SNAP benefits would ordinarily result in the automatic denial of her petition. This denial would trigger deportation proceedings, leaving this young couple facing the prospect of permanent separation. But for good reason, there are exemptions to this new public charge inadmissibility test, one of which applied in her case.

Receipt of benefits by family members qualifying through citizenship or legal status do not put applications for legal status in jeopardy.

But immigrants seeking legal permanent residence status, documented through issuance of a green card, are being heavily scrutinized for any personal use of public benefits to which they are not legally entitled, even if the violation was unintentional. In some cases, that could result in applicants being denied and deported.

Service providers and public benefit enrollment specialists in our communities will need to exercise extra caution in screening applicants to ensure accidental enrollment of an ineligible immigrant doesn’t put that immigrant at risk of deportation.

Immigrants receiving public benefits even though they do not have legal status are most likely ineligible in the first place and should unenroll right away. There is no need for them to ask eligible family members to unenroll, however.

Additional information on the federal public charge rule change, as it affects access to healthcare and other public benefits, can be found on the Oregon Health Authority’s website at www.oregon.gov/OHA.

The new rule change and the manner it is being implemented have real consequences to vulnerable families in our community. Resulting fear and uncertainty has meant families in need have forgone assistance to basic food, health and housing assistance even though they in fact qualify.

We anticipate this will have significant and far-reaching public health and safety implications for immigrant families, and by extension, for the entire community.

When the federal administration sets an agenda to destabilize immigrant families, when it undermines our neighbors’ health and well-being, our community must galvanize in response.

For our part, we are redoubling our efforts to provide reliable up-to-date information to protect our immigrant and mixed-status families, and insist that our communities work to build networks of resilience and support instead of fear and exclusion. In times like these, those of clear conscience should ask, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”



We need immigrants who can support US, not the other way around. Make it like Canada, you show up at the border ask for a work permit, they certify you if you have a job lined up and the education required to enter. And put down a huge deposit for incidentals in case you need it. But don’t break into our house, eat everything up and still demand even more from our government. Why are these leftist groups so motivated to drive our country totally into the ground? What is their agenda? It has to be something mode than just lets give free stuff to poor people.


Immigrants? Nothing to be afraid of. In this country we love and welcome immigrants.
ILLEGAL immigrants? Best way to deal with the fear and confusion is to have the integrity and character to turn yourself into ICE and get started with the LEGAL immigration process. Once you've done that through all the proper channels we will welcome you to this great country with open arms and be able to honestly refer to you as "immigrants".


"Public Charge" has been part of immigration policy for well over a hundred years (see link) so I'm trying to see what is new here. Is this another pre-existing rule suspended during the Obama administration like DACA that was re-instated by the Trump administration? If so, the headline, …"New immigration rules..." is misleading.



Most countries have public charge rules. Try being an illegal into Canada and see how far you get? I’m glad Trump is welcoming more people from India to come here. We need more immigrants just not the bottom feeding give me welfare types coming here illegally. And it’s no wonder why housing is sky high expensive with tens of millions of illegals taking up scarce housing resources and getting subsidy to do so. Just look at California to see how bad it can possibly get.


The latest study pit of Yale/MIT has the number between 16.5 and 29 million undocumented immigrants (see link). No matter how you slice it - that is a lot of people. Somewhere between four and six Oregons. I wonder how many millions (tens?) more could have immigrated legally if someone hadn't cut in line in front of them. I get it - who wouldn't want to come to the greatest country on earth but this seems out of control.



Can we even possibly cut down enough trees (which is another “bad” thing according to the proggies) to build houses that all the illegals would need?


So why is it this (and other similarly liberal biased newspapers) expend so much time praising illegal immigration while at the same time condemning global warming?


So why do Democrats get so defensive when you bring up the issue of illegal immigrants getting “welfare?” I just use it in a general sense but it’s clear that illegal immigrants get a significant amount of assistance or else we wouldn’t be debating it! But why are so many Democrats adamant that illegals do not get it when it’s clear they actually do - and lots of it ??


While public charge has been the policy of this country for over a hundred years, the rules by which the policy is being implemented are being changed and therefore new. This is what is creating the fear and confusion. Yes, the Obama administration also changed some of the rules without the legislative branch changing policy.


The fear and confusion is being experienced by the immigrants who are working to go through the legal pathways of our immigration system, they are attempting to navigate the proper channels. Misinformation and changing rules creates fear and confusion for folks trying to go through the LEGAL process. https://www.uscis.gov/legal-resources/final-rule-public-charge-ground-inadmissibility


I heard a sad story the other day from one of my coworkers she said they spent a whole day in line at the consulate in Guadalajara and then spent several thousand dollars for a VISA for her sister. And after several years waiting got a rejection letter because they were off a couple of years on the date she graduated from high school. And she lamented she was out the money and couldn’t pay for a boob job now. I said laws are laws and every country has them! And it’s up to the citizens and their legislators to make those laws.


Doing the work Americans don’t want to do