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Immigration law changes could decrease use of health services

JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) – Health workers with the Johnson County Department of Public Health are trying to educate immigrant families on how a change to federal immigration law will impact them next month.

“I would say this is the biggest thing that’s happened to our clients in some time,” Kate Klefstad said, who manages the county’s clinical services department.

On October 15, immigration law will change to make it harder for applicants to get citizenship who use public services such as medicaid, food stamps and housing assistance. More than 10 states have sued the Trump Administration over changes to the Public Charge statute.

If immigrants use certain public benefits for 12 months in a 36-month period, it will negatively affect them as they seek to change their citizenship status.

“People are freaking out,” Mazahir Salih said, an immigrant, Iowa City City Council member and co-founder of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa. “Some people told me, ‘I’m going to stop my food stamps right now because I want to have citizenship.'”

“To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient,” President Donald Trump said in a press release from the White House last month.

Families with green cards, those who’ve already applied or those with asylum or refugee status won’t be affected by the changes. And the county wants to remind people services like Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Care, or WIC, do not fall under the federal change.

Johnson County health workers like Klefstad hope to breakdown the issue for immigrants in the area before the rule goes into place, so they don’t stop seeking benefits altogether.

The county and the Center for Worker Justice plan to host events in the near future to further explain who’s affected, and which programs people can still use.

tbreese

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