OLYMPIA – Washington officials vowed to fight a new federal rule that would disqualify immigrants who use certain public assistance from obtaining a green card or visa, saying it could affect an estimated 1 million people in the state.
Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, both frequent critics of the Trump administration who have challenged other new federal policies, objected to the proposed change when it was announced in April and said they would fight the final version after it was announced Monday.
“We’re taking a close look at whether or not this action is legal,” Ferguson said in a press release.
The new federal rule, which would take effect in 60 days, would allow immigration officials to deny green cards and legal status to applicants who receive Medicaid, housing assistance or food stamps for 12 months over a three-year period. Green card applicants would be required to submit tax returns along with a history of employment.
Inslee released data that said the state has an estimated 1 million immigrants and some 450,000 children live in a home with at least one immigrant parent. The new rules could cut 140,000 residents off subsidized health care. About 2,000 immigrant families could lose rental assistance.
Taking an estimated $55 million in food stamps away from immigrant households not only could increase hunger but hurt the state’s farm economy, Inslee contended.
“Instead of aiding those seeking opportunity and working to provide their children a better life, this sends people into the shadows and deeper into poverty,” he said.
In a separate statement, Ferguson said he was asking a federal court to allow the state to join a lawsuit over whether undocumented immigrants should be included in the 2020 Census count. Alabama is suing to exclude them from the count, claiming it would cost that state congressional representation.
If the request is granted, it would put Washington on the same side as the U.S. Justice Department in opposing the Alabama suit. Ferguson’s office previously was part of a successful effort to block the administration from adding a question about citizenship to the survey.
The judge has described the administration’s efforts in the Alabama case as “rather halfhearted,” Ferguson said, and Washington is willing to “protect the integrity of the census.”
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