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Texas Groups Respond To Changes In 'Public Charge' Rule

The Trump administration wants to expand the "public charge" rule to include use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan, or SNAP.

Texas groups are reacting to the Trump administration's plan to significantly expand a rule that penalizes immigrants seeking permanent residency for using public benefits.

As it stands now, the "public charge" rule applies to people who primarily rely on the government for support through cash assistance, for example. 

When the rule change is finalized Wednesday, using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP), non-emergency Medicaidor housing assistance will also be a strike against an immigrant's application. A wealth test is part of the rule change, too.

Cheasty Anderson with the Children's Defense Fund of Texas says many people are scared and have removed themselves and their kids from these programs.

"What we want to avoid are people panicking and withdrawing their citizen children from these programs and then still applying for legal permanent residency and getting trapped by this wealth test," Anderson said.

The wealth test deems an income at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level as a strike against the applicant.

Anderson stresses that programs like WIC, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and school lunches will not be included in the rule change. The changes are scheduled to take affect 60 days after they are finalized.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.