Connecticut estimates 200,000 impacted by immigration change

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut officials on Wednesday estimated as many as 200,000 residents, including tens of thousands of children on a public health care program, could be impacted by sweeping Trump administration changes that would deny green cards to many immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps and other forms of public assistance.

Democratic Attorney General William Tong, other state officials and advocates predicted the planned changes will lead to more expensive emergency room visits, increased demand at food pantries and a decline in children enrolled in Connecticut's HUSKY health insurance program, ultimately having "profound implications for the state," including economic ones.

"We're talking about the core of Connecticut's economy and the core working people of this state that power this economy here in Connecticut," Tong said during a news conference at his office. "And this is an attack on all of them and their ability to make it work for themselves and their families and their communities."

Similar concerns have been raised in other parts of the country .

Set to take effect in October, the rule change announced last week by President Donald Trump's administration has been pitched as a way to keep only self-sufficient immigrants in the country.

"That's a core principle of the American dream. It's deeply embedded in our history, and particularly our history related to legal immigration," recently said Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Immigrants who want permanent legal status, commonly called a green card, have long been required to prove they won't be "a public charge." Under the administration's plan, the term will be redefined to mean those who are "more likely than not" to receive public benefits over a certain period. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will also now consider other factors, including income, education and English proficiency.

On Tuesday, Connecticut, New York, Vermont and New York City filed a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the change. It's the latest effort by Connecticut officials to oppose Trump administration immigration policies.

"We are here to stand up once again and say that Governor Lamont and I are in opposition to this discrimination, to this cruelty, to this racism, to this vilification of immigrants," Democratic Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said. "Each day, there's just a new theme, a new rule, a new policy directive. And so Connecticut is going to continue to fight back."

Connecticut Department of Social Services Commissioner Deirdre Gifford stressed that means-tested programs like Medicaid, food stamps and temporary family assistance already have rigid restrictions on non-citizens accessing the benefits, including a rule that permanent residents need to be in the U.S. lawfully for five years before they can access the benefits. She predicted this latest changes will only confuse and "scare away" people from getting the services they may need for themselves and their families.

"Hunger will not simply disappear. Illness will not cure itself," she said. "This rule will force legal residents, legal immigrant families to endure unnecessary harm during their pursuit of citizenship."

Nichelle Mullins, president and CEO of Charter Oak Health Center in Hartford, said the 18 community health centers across the state have already seen a growing number of patients moving away from government-funded Medicaid to paying for the care out-of-pocket or skipping treatment — a change could adversely impact the centers financially. Many are immigrant families who were already fearful of the government and of being deported, she said, adding how this latest changes will exacerbate such fear.

"This rule will make them believe that if they continue to apply for Medicaid or other programs, for which they are lawfully eligible, that they may face deportation," Mullins said, who called the rule change a "bullying and fear tactic."

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