Brooklyn Boro

Trump’s green card proposal could hit Brooklyn hard

October 12, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Tens of thousands of Brooklyn immigrants without green cards could be at risk if a new rule proposed by President Donald Trump goes into effect in two months. Shown: Guatemalan immigrants Manuel Marcelino Tzah, left, and his daughter Manuela Adriana, 11, sit inside their apartment during an interview hours after her release from immigrant detention in July in Brooklyn.  AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Espinal: ‘Deliberate cruelty’ a centerpiece of Trump’s agenda

More than 400,000 immigrants without green cards live in Brooklyn. Officials warn that tens of thousands of them could be at risk if a new rule proposed by President Donald Trump goes into effect in two months.

The proposed rule says that immigrants who are enrolled in public benefits programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), Medicaid, public housing or rent vouchers, or fail to meet an income threshold ($62,000 for a family of four), could be ineligible for a visa or green card.

According to the Mayor’s Office, 75,000 New York immigrants could be forced to choose between using benefits to which they’re legally entitled and pursuing permanent residency. Another 400,000 could suffer adverse immigration consequences because of their age, income, employment history or other factors.  

The city’s economy could be adversely affected as well, due to an annual loss of $235 million in SNAP and other assistance program. The Mayor’s Office said that $185 million in related economic activity could also be lost. With Brooklyn’s economy growing, it is likely the borough’s economy would take a large hit.

Brooklyn officials say the change could lead to public health crises, as immigrant families grow fearful of accessing healthcare benefits. They also worry about an uptick in “food insecurity,” as many immigrants are enrolled in SNAP and other assistance programs.

According to the NYC Department of Planning, of Brooklyn’s roughly 2,606,850 residents, 37.2 percent — which amounts to 970,550 people — are foreign born. Of these foreign-born, 57.7 percent are naturalized American citizens and 42.3 percent — 410,280 people — are not U.S. citizens.

On Thursday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called the proposed rule “officially ludicrous.”

“The rule change is draconian, stigmatizing hundreds of thousands of hard-working immigrant New Yorkers who support their families through low-wage jobs,” Adams said, adding that the fear surrounding its announcement “may threaten the safety and welfare of vulnerable children and families, including reduced access to vital health care, housing support and nutrition assistance.”

‘Deliberate Cruelty’

New York City Councilmember Rafael Espinal represents areas including Bushwick and East New York, where high numbers of immigrants live. On Thursday, he charged that the proposed rule change serves as “further confirmation that deliberate cruelty is a centerpiece of President Trump’s governing agenda.

“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.

The city’s analysis, jointly conducted by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Department of Social Services, and the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, found that U.S. citizen’s children might also be harmed, as families might withdraw from or forgo enrolling in critical social safety net programs based on misinformation and fears of immigration consequences.

“I have been practicing medicine in public health systems for more than 30 years. I’ve never met a doctor — Democrat or Republican — who cared about the immigration status of their patient,” Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, said in a statement.

Non-Citizens Pay Taxes, Work Harder

According to FWD, a bi-partisan immigration non-profit group, immigrants are currently barred from accessing the majority of federal public benefits. But programs like food stamps and child support have been explicitly excluded from consideration. Many immigrants access these benefits temporarily on their way to self-sufficiency, advocates say.

Espinal said that the city benefits from the thousands of immigrants who contribute to the economy. In general, immigrants provide a positive fiscal impact by paying more in taxes than they utilize.

Immigrants participate in the workforce at higher rates than native-born Americans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force participation rate for immigrants (including undocumented workers) in 2017 was 66 percent, compared to a rate of 62 percent for the native-born population, with participation for immigrant men estimated at 84 percent, compared to 79 percent for native-born men. In 2014, immigrants contributed $328.2 billion in taxes, with more than $100 billion going to state and local taxes.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that the share of non-citizens impacted by the policy would increase 15 times over, from about 700,000 to over 10 million, encompassing nearly half of the U.S. non-citizen population.

Help is available to those with questions about this proposal. New Yorkers can visit NYC.gov/PublicCharge for more information. Additionally, residents can call the New Americans Hotline, operated by Catholic Charities, at 1-800-566-7636 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday.

There will be a 60-day period — ending Dec. 10, 2018 — during which individuals can submit public comments to the federal government regarding the proposal. New Yorkers can make their voices heard by submitting a public comment through NYC.gov/PublicCharge.

City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration, encouraged all New Yorkers to submit public comments — “and to vote in the midterm elections on Nov. 6.”