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Children's health could suffer due to immigration law changes

A proposal being supported by the Trump administration could risk access to health care and food for nearly 2 million children in Tennessee and across the country. According to one study, up to 1.9 million kids can be expected to drop out of federal programs providing children's health care and nutrition benefits if the administration pursues its plan to change immigration law. In particular, the Trump administration is proposing a redefinition of the term "public charge."

Immigrants are partially evaluated as to whether they are likely to become a "public charge" or dependent on government benefits. Typically, this has been applied to long-term support benefits rather than transitory programs for children. In particular, it is applied to cash assistance programs or institutionalization in a government facility. Under the proposal, however, an array of non-cash benefits would also be considered, including housing aid, SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), Medicaid and children's health assistance programs. Experts note that families are often encouraged to enroll in these programs which aim to assist people in moving forward from poverty. Many people use these programs for a period of time to help them achieve a position in life where they are no longer necessary.

Pediatricians say that immigrants are already hesitating to access programs of this nature, including children's public health insurance. Patients' parents are telling them that they are concerned about their future immigration status. They also noted that many of the affected children are U.S. citizens, but their enrollment could potentially be used negatively against their parents.

Changing immigration laws have led many to be concerned about their futures in the country. People might consult with an immigration law attorney for advice and guidance on the potential changes to the public charge definition and how they may affect their plans to remain in the country.

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