The ink isn’t yet dry on a controversial Trump administration proposal that could deny visas or permanent residency to immigrants who use public assistance programs, but some Los Angeles County officials are readying their opposition.
The Board of Supervisors is expected this week to consider sending a letter to federal leaders asserting that the proposed rule would cause “significant harm” to the county and its residents.
At issue are so-called public charge rules that have long been a part of the immigration system, in which federal officials consider whether visa applicants or those who want to adjust their status have or might rely on public assistance.
But the Trump administration has proposed expanding the number of programs — and the financial thresholds of assistance — that might weigh against such applicants, sparking criticism among some immigration activists.
The letter of opposition, if approved, would be part of a broader strategy by the county to respond to the rule. The letter was proposed by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl.
Career county employees, in addition to county supervisors, are also closely monitoring the effect of the plan.
“It could potentially have broad and sweeping impacts,” according to the county’s official statement on the rule. “Our core mission is to protect and improve the health, public safety and well-being of the over 10 million residents who call L.A. County home — regardless of their immigration status.”
The response on Tuesday’s board agenda could create a multilingual public relations and education plan to inform residents about immigration resources and access to public assistance. It would also ask the county’s legal staff to analyze the rule and any legal action seeking to prevent its adoption.
It’s unclear whether the board’s three other supervisors would support the response as drafted.
The plan they’re expected to consider would also express alignment with efforts by the state to fight the proposed rule, which the Trump administration plans to formally submit to the Federal Register in the “coming weeks,” as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced recently.
The public would then have 60 days to comment on the rule and federal officials could still alter it before adoption.
Nielsen said the department seeks only to ensure that people seeking permanent residency or citizenship can support themselves financially.
“This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers,” she said.
But critics of the rule say it would make it harder for outsiders to enter and work in the United States, affecting the national economy, or have the net effect of denying immigrants access to services they are legally entitled to receive.
The benefits already considered by immigration officials are federal, state, local and tribal cash assistance programs, benefits typically defined as welfare. The new rule would include portions of Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, and public housing facilities and housing vouchers.
Solis, whose district has a high proportion of Latino residents, said she opposed the administration’s rule because she believes it would have a “chilling effect” on immigrants’ participation in public assistance programs.
“This is a betrayal of our American values and will negatively impact Los Angeles County’s ability to provide important services to everyone we are obligated to serve,” she said in a news release. “California and Los Angeles County, with our large and diverse immigrant population, would be among the most heavily impacted jurisdictions in the nation.”
Immigrants are a substantial portion of the county’s population and economy. About 35% of residents were born outside the United States and more than half the families in the county live in a home where a language other than English is spoken, according to population surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
In addition to county officials here, the administration’s proposed rule has caught the attention of other local and state elected officials and immigration advocates.
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra has been among the most vocal, issuing a statement denouncing the plan as an “assault on our families and our communities.”