PORTLAND (WGME) – Time is running out for dozens of asylum seekers staying at the Portland Expo.
The emergency shelter will shut down Thursday as the Portland Red Claws return to start basketball season.
It now appears those asylum seekers will not be affected by a controversial new rule announced by the Trump administration this week, making it much harder for some immigrants to become citizens.
Advocates call the new rule a radical change, and one that mostly impacts immigrants who are coming to the United States to join their families.
With a family member as his sponsor, Papi Bongibo migrated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the United States in 2003 and moved to Maine in 2010. He is now an American citizen.
“I’m from a French country, never speak any English. I learn English here,” he said.
Under new rules announced by the Trump administration, getting a green card will depend on factors like education, income, age, health and how well a person speaks English.
“Now they are attacking family immigration, which is the majority of immigration in this country,” said Julia Brown, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project.
The government will also deny green cards to many migrants who use public assistance.
Federal law already requires them to prove they won’t be a burden on taxpayers, but will now include food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid.
“We’re really concerned that a lot of this is intended to scare people off of using vital anti-poverty programs and that’s the chilling effect we’re very worried about,” Brown said.
She said most immigrants are not eligible for benefits until five years after they get a green card.
Advocates fear as many as 26 million across the country will fear using the services they need to keep their families healthy.
“Every time we have [that] kind of decision making, a lot of people start panicking,” she said.
Advocates like Brown say immigrants should not change their benefits until they talk to a lawyer.
Brown said the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project will be doing outreach and providing community education resources so everyone is fully informed
While the new rule has been finalized, it does not take effect until Oct. 15.
Several organizations are suing the government to try to keep it from taking effect at all.