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King County Executive
Dow Constantine

King County forecasts dire community impacts of new White House immigration policy


A new proposal announced by the Department of Homeland Security seeks to make it more difficult to come to the United States and obtain residency if immigrants receive some forms of public assistance. King County officials say local public health could be at risk.


Thousands of people in King County could be impacted by a Trump administration plan making it harder for immigrants to stay in the United States if they or a family member use a wide range of public benefits, particularly Medicaid or food stamps.

For example:

  • More than 20,000 households in King County include at least one adult immigrant who receives health insurance through Medicaid, or a child who receives health coverage through Medicaid. 
  • More than 30,000 households in King County have at least one immigrant who accesses basic food assistance. It is unknown how many people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program may also be receiving Medicaid.

“Forty percent of the region’s population increase since 2010 has been from people not born in the country. This new energy is fundamental to our economic, civic and cultural health. The latest move from the Trump administration is a threat not only to immigrants, but to all of us,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “By sowing fear and division, the White House is making our communities sicker and poorer. Along with our immigrant and refugee allies, we will strenuously push back against this immoral proposal, and fight for all those who call our region home.”

Officials from Public Health – Seattle & King County say some immigrants are already withdrawing from support they or their children need —endangering their health and the long-term public health of the entire population in King County.

In addition, Public Health officials expect an increase in hunger and food insecurity, causing many children to struggle with the lifelong impacts of malnutrition.

In the past few weeks, as rumors spread about the new rule, more than a dozen clients at Public Health clinics either asked to terminate services or declined services they were legally eligible to receive. New mothers declined baby formula that they needed, pregnant women declined nutrition services, and parents removed children from health insurance.

The proposed rule is aimed explicitly at denying legal permanent status to immigrants who lawfully use food, housing, and healthcare services.

Under the new rule, benefits that could be considered in a “public charge” determination include key programs that help participants meet their basic needs. These programs include:

  • Non-emergency Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy
  • Housing assistance, such as public housing or Section 8 housing vouchers and rental assistance

The administration’s proposal includes the potential of adding the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

“Any action that discourages families from accessing healthcare, basic food, or housing will lead to increases in hunger, illness, poverty and disease. This is inhumane and it would undermine efforts to improve the overall health of King County—and impact generations to come,” said Patty Hayes, director of Public Health—Seattle & King County.

King County is a Welcoming County. The County has made investments to support immigrants and refugees, including a legal defense fund. It has also adopted immigration legislation that makes King County a leader in protecting safety, health and civil rights. In addition, the County prohibits the use of County funds and resources for federal immigration enforcement and protects immigrants’ use of county services.

Officials say King County will respond to the 60-day public comment triggered after the proposal appears in the Federal Register, which is expected in the coming weeks.


Keith Seinfeld, Public Health – Seattle & King County, 206-263-8808

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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