Immigrants on Benefits Could Be Denied Green Cards

Marching in support of immigrants and refugees in NYC on World Refugee Day. (Photo by Sean Parrish for Voices of NY)

The Department of Homeland Security announced on Sept. 22 that immigrants who apply for public assistance, including food and housing programs, could be denied a green card. The proposed regulation would broaden the scope of individuals who would be considered a “public charge,” or those dependent on what is currently a narrow set of public benefits. Under the proposed change, the definition of “public charge” would expand to encompass a wider range of assistance programs.

The New York Immigration Coalition held a press conference the morning of Sept. 24, during which advocates and service providers spoke of the possible consequences of the move while emphasizing that the proposal has not yet gone into effect.

See more from the press conference on their Twitter page. NYIC is also holding a rally at the corner of Orchard and Delancey streets at 5:30 p.m. in protest of the proposal.

Writing in Long Island Wins, Patrick Young noted some key points:

  1. This is only a proposed rule, it is not in effect. There is no reason for anyone to stop receiving public assistance right now.
  2. Even if and when it becomes a final rule, people will still have 60 days to drop their benefits, if they choose to.
  3. This only affects those who are likely to apply for permanent residence in the future. If someone is already a permanent resident, it will have no impact on that person.

María Peña reports in El Diario on the response on Sept. 23 from immigrant advocacy groups from across the country who said they would consider taking legal action to stop the proposal.

The activists said in a conference call that the draft regulation (…) is nothing short of a war against low-income immigrants that would force families to choose between supporting themselves and staying in the country legally.

“We still have much to do to ensure that we can stop or mitigate the harm” this will cause, said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), who also accused the administration of using immigrants as “scapegoats” to rile up the conservative base.

For her part, Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), said that the regulation will bring about “more hunger, more disease, more poverty” to low-income communities and “contradicts the country’s values.”

Hincapié said that through the Protecting Immigrant Families, Advancing Our Future campaign, “dozens of civic organizations from across the U.S. will continue educating immigrant families about their rights and pressuring the government to protect their social safety net,” writes Peña.

The campaign includes coordinating strategies, a community action plan, acts to pressure the government and a publicity campaign directed at the general public.

When the proposal is published in the Federal Register, there will be a 60-day period to receive public comments (…). The goal of the activists is to flood the government with at least 100,000 comments against the proposals, according to Hincapié.

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