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NC’s Asian-American Community “On Edge” Amid Immigration Law Changes

RALEIGH, N.C. – Trepidation is rising in North Carolina’s Asian-American community amid recent changes to federal immigration law slated to go into effect on October 15. The new rules take into consideration a green-card applicant’s income level and use of federal assistance programs, among other criteria.

Ricky Leung is one of the founders of the organization North Carolina Asian Americans Together. He said the new rules threaten the health of families.

“Asian-Americans as an immigrant group a lot of times get left out of the conversation,” Leung said. “And a large part of North Carolina’s Asian-American community are immigrants – many of them recent immigrants as well. And so this public-charge issue is going to affect a large segment of that population.”

Education and the ability to speak English also would weigh more heavily on a green-card applicant’s approval. Experts say the new rule would fundamentally alter the U.S. immigration system, and likely lead to the denial of green cards and visas to hundreds of thousands of otherwise eligible people.

Leung said in North Carolina, more than half a million people live in a family with at least one non-citizen member, and receive at least one of the income supports identified in the rule, such as Medicaid or SNAP. He said these changes, along with the push to add immigration status to the list of questions on the 2020 census, has unsettled the Asian-American community.

“It’s really kind of put the community on edge,” he said. “That dissuades some community members from accessing the support for the basic needs that they need.”

While the law only takes into account benefits received by the green-card applicant, Leung pointed out the policy is designed to create confusion and likely could prevent immigrant families from seeking or using benefits they are legally permitted to use. He said his organization will continue to help ensure that community members are informed of what resources are available to them.

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