Los Angeles County leaders on Tuesday expressed their opposition to a proposed Trump administration rule change that could make immigration more difficult for people who receive government assistance.
In a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors agreed to send a letter to immigration and congressional officials challenging the regulation proposed last month by the Department of Homeland Security.
They also agreed to work to notify local residents about the administration’s effort and to study joining any legal challenges if the administration ultimately adopts the plan in the coming months.
“This rule, if adopted, in my opinion would be very harmful,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis. “It is the county’s moral and civic responsibility to offer service to every resident regardless of their immigration status.”
The proposed rule would extend the federal government’s “public charge” provision. Under that rule, the government weighs whether people seeking lawful entry into the country on visas might depend upon public assistance.
It also would apply to people seeking to make their stay in the nation permanent.
The Trump administration has proposed extending the current rule from cash payments typically referred to as welfare to other items such as food stamps, and public housing facilities and housing vouchers. Such aid would count as “negative” factors in immigration decisions.
Immigration advocates argue that the change would strip services immigrants are legally allowed to receive. They also worry that it might scare other immigrants not affected by the rule from getting help from the government out of caution.
Administration officials say the rule is intended to ensure that people seeking visas or green cards will be self sufficient.
“Those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement announcing the proposal.
The rule wouldn’t apply to lawful permanent residents seeking naturalization, or citizenship, and those who have received asylum or been admitted as refugees.
Couching their votes in emotional terms during a hearing in which several public speakers voiced their concerns about the impact on immigrants, the supervisors voted unanimously to adopt the response. Their motion would also include a letter of support to California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, who is considering a legal challenge.
Board Chair Sheila Kuehl said the county should oppose the “bully in the White House,” referring to President Trump. “This is just one of many many attempts from Washington to harass the immigrant community.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she worried that it would, for example, increase costs in county emergency rooms if immigrants forgo help with preventative care over worries that they or their families might be penalized by immigration officials.
“While I am of the belief that social service programs should be a hand up and not a handout, I also recognize their importance to the county and its residents,” she said. “As the safety net provider for the region, we have a duty to provide access and care for all county residents.”