Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke held a town hall on Monday at Flatbush’s Lenox Road Baptist Church to warn about the Trump administration’s proposed public charge rule change which aims to deter immigrants from accessing public assistance. 

Clarke gathered representatives from the New York Immigration Coalition, Undocublack Network, Brooklyn Defender Services, Council of People’s Organization and Caribbean Women’s Health Association to inform the community about the effects of the rule change, to address questions and concerns, and to develop strategies to protect the immigrant community. 

“The proposed public charge rule change, if enacted, would affect a large portion of the Ninth Congressional District,” said Clarke who represents a district that includes Crown Heights, East Flatbush and Flatbush, and is home to nearly 300,000 foreign-born residents. “It is important that our community is informed and prepared. With the help of immigration experts, we began a healthy dialogue that I hope will help protect members of our community from harm.”

In September, the Department of Homeland Security announced proposed changes to the public charge rule, a term that refers to a person who is considered primarily dependent on government assistance. The proposed rule change would make it harder for immigrants to obtain visas or green cards based on the government’s assumption that they are likely in need for Medicaid coverage or other public benefits such as SNAP. 

(L- r) Max Hadler, NYIC; Patrice Lawrence, UndocuBlack Network; Fernanda Hipskind, The Council of People’s Organization; Natalie Burge Lowe, Caribbean Women’s Health Association; Shawn Blumberg, Brooklyn Defenders; Chris Keeley, NY Health and Hospitals. Photo credit: Antonya Jeffrey/ Office of Rep. Clarke

“As the Trump administration continues its relentless attack on immigrant families with its proposed changes to the public charge regulations, it is critical to provide our communities with real information and high-quality legal resources,” said Shawn Blumberg,  immigration attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services.

In October, the city published an analysis which determined that the rule change could affect up to 475,000 immigrant New Yorkers. The report further estimated that hundreds of thousands additional New Yorkers could be harmed, including U.S. citizen children, as families might withdraw from or forgo enrolling in social safety net programs, fearing immigration consequences.

“Trump’s public charge proposal would force millions of people to choose between feeding their families and keeping their immigration status — an impossible choice to make,” said Max Hadler, director of health policy at the New York Immigration Coalition.

Following the initial announcement, DHS proceeded with publishing the proposal in the Federal Register, the government’s official journal of agency rules, proposed rules and public notices in October. The register gives the public an opportunity to comment and raise concerns, and subsequently requires the government to address issues raised before it publishes its final rule.

Clarke encouraged Brooklynites to participate in the open comment period before it closes on Monday, December 10. 

“Tell your story and send a strong message to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that the Ninth Congressional District says ‘NO’ to public charge”, said Clarke.

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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