City Council Members Daniel Dromm (D-East Elmhurt, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) and Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) last night held a town hall meeting in front of several hundred worried immigrants to discuss a Trump administration proposed rule change that would make it harder for immigrants reliant on government benefits to obtain or keep their green cards.

    The town hall held in the PS 69 auditorium in Jackson Heights specifically was called to address the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposed rule change that  would render immigrants who receive certain forms of public assistance (i.e. Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP and Section 8 vouchers) potentially ineligible for U.S. permanent residency (Green Card).

    The rule change was published in the Federal Register in October, kicking off a 60-day public comment period.

    Dromm opened the meeting, where he described the rule change as a “threat to our immigrant communities.” “If the Trump Administration implements this, it will be detrimental to our immigrant community, and our city will lose money if this policy goes through as proposed,” he said.

    Assemblymember-elect Caralina Cruz. Photo by MIchael Rock.

    Assemblymember-elect Catalina Cruz (D-Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) agreed. “As a formerly undocumented American, our constituents shouldn’t have to suffer consequences if they apply for citizenship,” she said.

    Meanwhile, Councilmember Donovan Richards (D-Arverne, Bayswater, Broad Channel, Cambria Heights, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Howard Beach, Jamaica, JFK Airport, Laurelton, Rockaway Beach, Rosedale, South Ozone Park, Springfield Gardens), recognizing his many Latino constituents asserted that there was no positive reason to implement this policy.

    “This is about striking fear at the very heart of those that make America great in the first place,” Richards said. “We must get together, organize, and educate each other,”

    City Councilmember Donovan Richards. Photo by Michael Rock.

    Despite Menchaca’s indication that as many as 475,000 New Yorkers could be affected by the change, he offered attendees reason to hope. He made it clear that the regulation is “…just a proposal,” and that a potential law change was “months away.”

    He also indicated that there was a way in which average voters could attempt to prevent the proposal from being enacted, encouraging all attendees to comment on the matter at www.uramericanstory.us by the December 10 deadline. DHS are obligated to read every comment. As of last night, 68,000 Americans have done so.

    “Make sure your voice is heard by telling them, you’ll slow it down,” said Menchaca.

    “One thing we know from history is that uncertainty produces fear, and fear is what robs people of their agency. The solution is to dispel rumors through education and remind people of their own power. These town halls are a vehicle for that education and empowerment. People need to know that the public charge rule is just a proposal. It is not final. You still can and should seek public benefits if you are eligible,” he added.

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