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Hawaii Group Seeks Block Of Federal Policy On Immigrants

Kuuwehi Hiraishi/HPR

WAILUKU, Hawaii — A Hawaii community action agency has requested governmental help in blocking a new national policy that would affect immigrants across the islands, officials said.

A policy known as the public charge rule was approved this month and would prevent legal immigrants from obtaining green cards or permanent residency if they use or plan to use federal, state and even local public benefit programs, such as food stamps and Medicaid, Maui News reported Saturday.

The federal rule could affect more than 85% of clients in a Maui Economic Opportunity program, organization specialist Maria Lores-Browne said.

"It's so hard for me to know that this woman, that this woman, that this gentleman is not going to have any place that they can go to for help," she said.

The Maui Economic Opportunity provides services and advocates for about 15,000 individuals including elderly, disabled, young, economically disadvantaged people and immigrants, officials said.

Hawaii's Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono has plans to introduce legislation next month to block implementation of the rule, her office said.

"Organizations like Maui Economic Opportunity are doing great work to help new Americans transition and adapt to life in Hawaii," Hirono said.

Nearly 1 in 5 Hawaii residents is an immigrant and more than 1 in 7 is a native-born citizen with at least one immigrant parent, officials said. More than $1 billion in taxes annually is contributed by immigrants in Hawaii.

The rule proposed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is expected to take effect Oct. 15.

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