Philadelphia teaming up with lawyers to take on proposed immigration rule

The restrictive measure would bar families from accessing health care and nutrition assistance.

Cherri Gregg
June 14, 2018 - 6:54 am
Mayor Jim Kenney addresses the Take Charge Philly convening.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The City of Philadelphia was the first to challene a proposed federal rule change that would bar immigrant families from accessing basic health care and nutrition assistance. Lawyers are gearing up for the next phase of battle.

The "public charge" test is a federal immigration law that denies lawful U.S. residency to individuals who at some point in the future are likely to need to rely on public benefits. Currently, the federal rule defines benefits as cash welfare, SSI or long-term Medicaid. The Trump administration is reviewing the rule, and leaks reveal that proposed changes would widely expand the list of benefits that are under consideration. It would also allow the Department of Homeland Security to consider the benefits received by family members of the individual applying for residency, including their American-born children.

"The expansion would include Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP, WIC and Liheap," Mayor Jim Kenney explained to the group of nearly three-dozen lawyers who met at the Philadelphia Bar Association on Wednesday afternoon as part of the Take Charge Philly host convening. 

The event was lead by Miriam Enriquez, director of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, and included individuals from various non-profits and departments in Philadelphia. TCP's goal is to eduate lawyers, service providers and immigrant families to possibly stop the chilling effect of the new policy. 

"I never appreciated the practice of law more than I appreciate it now," says Kenney.

According to the National Immigration Law Center, the proposed change to the public charge rule could affect 365,000 Philadelphia residents and have a $100 million economic impact.

The proposed change could come as soon as this summer.