Immigrants in Las Vegas are currently navigating many challenges, including disproportionate economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and barriers to accessing safety-net supports in light of recent changes to federal immigration policy. A revised “public charge rule,” which took effect in February 2020, makes receipt of Medicaid, food stamps, and certain other public benefits a negative factor in immigrants’ applications for green cards. This brief examines “chilling effects” in Las Vegas, where many immigrants are avoiding benefits and other supports for themselves or their children out of concern over the public charge rule, and describes emerging local attempts by public benefit programs, advocacy groups, and community-based organizations to mitigate chilling effects and support immigrant families during the COVID-19 pandemic. We find that such efforts have faced many challenges, including widespread confusion and misunderstanding of the public charge rule, a limited immigrant-serving infrastructure, and lack of coordination. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged more coordinated outreach to immigrant communities, limited resources and lack of direct financial assistance for immigrants have many policymakers, service providers, and advocates worried about immigrants’ health and well-being and the effectiveness of local recovery efforts.
A summary is available in Spanish