Asian Americans and rights groups on Monday opposed a proposed law of the Trump administration that threatens to deny Green Card or permanent legal residency to all those who have been or might be a beneficiary of the US government's public assistance programmes.
Such a "sweeping proposal" could lead to the "largest decline" in legal immigration in generations, the American Immigration Council said.
The new regulations propose to redefine the meaning of the legal term "public charge" to penalise any immigrant applying for a green card or an immigrant visa from abroad if they have previously accessed or are deemed likely to rely on certain forms of public assistance in the future, the council said Monday.
"The Trump administration's proposed changes to the public charge regulations are an unprecedented attack on legal immigration. They signal an intent to abandon the basic principle that America is a land of opportunity for people, rich and poor. These proposals would break that fundamental promise," Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council.
Werlin said many people now would be forced to choose between accessing the assistance they and their children need now or securing permanent legal immigration status to be with their families in the future.
"Many legal immigrants will be at serious risk of being unable to renew their visas or become permanent residents if they apply for certain federal assistance programs. The rule affects programs for children, many of whom are US citizens in mixed status families," said New York Immigration Council.
This proposed rule would penalise many immigrants for using federal assistance programmes such as Medicaid and Medicare Part D and subsidised housing support, it said.
"The proposed change to 'public charge' is an attack on Asian American, Pacific Islander and all immigrant families," said Jeffrey Caballero, executive director of Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organisations.
"If this reckless regulation goes through, families will be torn apart for getting the health care and nutrition they need. We urge the public to join a wide range of civil rights leaders who oppose this ugly 'public charge' proposal by submitting comments," he said.
"Families are justifiably frightened. Some families are choosing to not address medical issues that require immediate or continued attention from health care providers," said Darrin Sato, COO of Kalihi-Palama Health Center in Honolulu and AAPCHO president.
Before being enacted, the proposed rule is subject to a 60-day public comment period. If enacted, immigration officials must consider the "totality of circumstances" to determine if a visa applicant is likely to depend on government assistance in the future. Circumstances include income, resources, age, family situation and health.
Under federal law, certain immigrant populations are exempt from public charge consideration, including refugees, asylum seekers, survivors of trafficking, victims of domestic violence and other serious crimes, special immigrant juveniles and certain parolees.
Legal permanent residents are not subject to public charge scrutiny when they apply for citizenship. Undocumented immigrants and many other immigrant groups are already barred from using federal benefit programmes.
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