Jarret Lyons


New York City Council Member Rafael Espinal is speaking out against the Trump Administration’s proposal to disqualify immigrants on public assistance for citizenship.

He wants Brooklyn residents to speak out as well.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s proposed public charge rules serve as further confirmation that deliberate cruelty is a centerpiece of President Trump’s governing agenda,” said Espinal.

“There is no other way to explain – much less justify – a rule that would force over 75,000 immigrants in our city to choose between accessing benefits they’re legally entitled to and pursuing permanent residency,” he said.

In addition, he says this rule may also prevent 400,000 New Yorkers from getting a green card. The Department of Homeland Security proposal requires proof that people seeking U.S. citizenship will not need public assistance.

“Aliens who seek adjustment of status or a visa, or who are applicants for admission, must establish that they are not likely at any time to become a public charge, unless Congress has expressly exempted them from this ground of inadmissibility or has otherwise permitted them to seek a waiver of inadmissibility,” the proposal states.

“Public charge” is considered anyone accepting assistance like TANF, SNAP, medicaid and public housing.

This proposal stands to negatively affect neighborhoods like Bushwick where more than a third of residents are foreign born. A little more than one in four Bushwick residents lives below the poverty line, making it the neighborhood with the 10th highest rate of poverty in the city. 

The public is able to speak out against this measure until December 12, so Espinal is encouraging New Yorkers to sign a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, urging her to withdraw her support of the proposal.

“Our country thrives on our diversity, and our global city thrives on the thousands of immigrants who contribute to our economy, our culture, and our community,” Espinal said in the letter to Nielsen.

“We cannot use factors beyond the individual’s control to cherry pick which immigrants get an opportunity to become a citizen, and which do not. Some of our finest New Yorkers may suffer from chronic illness, be under-educated, or have low-paying jobs — but their role in our City and our country is no less valuable because of it,” the letter states.

Other city politicians echo Espinal’s sentiments on stripping immigrants of public assistance. 

“This proposal is another perversion of our most basic values,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.  “It is un-American to penalize families for seeking help, plain and simple. On behalf of the ultimate city of immigrants, I pledge to join other Mayors from around the country to fight this with everything we’ve got.” 

“As the son of immigrants, representing a district of immigrants, I know first-hand how fears about immigration status can shake entire communities,” Espinal said in his press release. “That’s why I urge all New Yorkers to speak out against this malicious and inhumane policy, and sign onto this letter.”

Cover photo courtesy of Jeremy Dorrough

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