MIAMI – When Hurricane Michael tore through north Florida in October, it completely destroyed a car wash business owned by a Palestinian immigrant. The Category 4 storm also caused significant damage to his house and an office building that he owns in Panama City.
The man, a legal U.S. resident who first entered the U.S. in 1997 on a Fulbright Scholarship, did not request assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as so many of his neighbors did. He also thinks he’s going to decline a low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration to rebuild his car wash, a standard process for victims of natural disasters.
The reason: He is trying to finalize his asylum application and become a legal permanent resident, and he’s worried that accepting any kind of government assistance will jeopardize his petitions in light of new rules being proposed by the Trump administration.
The new “public charge” rules would limit the amount of federal assistance immigrants can receive if they want to permanently settle in the U.S., but the complicated rules have caused widespread confusion about what kind of benefits, if any, immigrants can accept.