Experts are finding it hard to say how many people living in Oklahoma may be affected by the Trump administration’s strict new "public charge" rule.
Around 270,000 Oklahoma residents currently going through the immigration process could be affected by the changes, but advocates say many more will be scared away from benefits they’re entitled to.
The rule penalizes immigrants for using federal, state or local public assistance. Hunger Free Oklahoma’s Chris Bernard said hundreds of others will avoid benefits altogether out of an abundance of caution, even immigrant parents of citizen children taking them out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
That had the Tulsa Public Schools board take up a resolution to submit a comment opposing the rule.
"Any family who pulls out of these programs means TPS doesn’t get reimubrsed for those meals, those kids go hungry, they struggle academically. It has a domino effect across multiple systems," Bernard said.
Bernard said local charitable organizations will be left to pick up the slack.
YWCA Tulsa Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services Diane Eason Contreras said the rule also applies to family members legal residents want to sponsor.
"When we’re limiting individuals’ ability to access those programs in times that they need to and/or bring family members to join them who can help supplement the income and support available to that family unit, it really has both short- and long-term consequences that I really think are opposite of what the ultimate goal of this type of change is really looking to make," Eason Contreras said.
YWCA Tulsa is working with other local organizations to spread the word about what the new rule actually means so people don’t forsake benefits they need Eason Contreras said they’re also anticipating delays in the legal services they offer immigrants.
"It will take additional time to really go through the consultation and try to determine if they’re still eligible, what the impact of the public charge change will be on their cases, as well as additional information that would need to be prepared," Eason Contreras said.
The rule is supposed to go into effect Oct. 15, but several immigrant advocacy groups are challenging it in court.