Brooklyn Boro

Menchaca to host town hall in Sunset Park regarding public charge rule

November 21, 2018 By Jaime DeJesus Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Carlos Menchaca. File photo

With fear and uncertainty about their legal status haunting many Sunset Park residents in the era of Trump, one local pol will be hosting a series of town halls — one in every borough — whose goal is to simplify a very complex subject, the revised public charge rule currently under review.

The elected official behind the effort is Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who is chair of the Committee on Immigration. The Brooklyn town hall will take place on Tues., Nov. 27 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 526 59th Street at 6:30 p.m.

The forum will focus on a new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for how the government assesses who counts as a “public charge” when issuing green cards and certain visa applications. The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs estimates that as many as 475,000 New Yorkers could be affected by the new immigration policy.

Because there is much uncertainty and misinformation regarding the proposed rule, the purpose of the town halls is to educate the public as to exactly what the proposed rule — which affects the green card and visa application process of those who get government benefits— entails before the public comment period ends on Dec. 10. According to the National Immigration Law Center, “Public charge is a term used in immigration law to refer to a person who is primarily dependent on the government to meet their basic needs.”

“If enacted, the proposal would not only impact individuals applying for certain immigration benefits who were using certain public benefits – the federal government’s more stringent test would penalize those it deemed likely to use public benefits in the future, based on criteria like employment history, age, health status, etc,” said a spokesperson from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

Not only, said Menchaca, will accurate information be provided; the hope is that those that attend will leave knowing their rights. Through the town halls, Menchaca also seeks to dispel any myths about the rule, as well as encourage residents to submit comments while the comment period is open, to make sure the federal government hears from New Yorkers.

“Public charge is a really complicated rule that needs a discussion. We want our immigrant communities to come together in a safe space and discuss it together. We want them to ask questions and get presentations from people who are experts, like lawyers and advocates, to dispel myths about it,” said Menchaca. “We’re going to join the national movement to let our federal government know this is not okay and it’s going to have a real impact in our neighborhood, on our neighbors who are on their way towards naturalization and could be impacted negatively.”

He stressed that the rule is still only a proposal; nothing has gone into effect.

“Even if it goes through, people can still maintain their connections with benefits until the rule goes into effect, so people should not be disenrolling from public services and resources that are really critical, like food and shelter,” Menchaca said.

“The city is so rich with resources,” he said. “We want to make sure people don’t begin to disenroll. We are starting to see a little bits and pieces of that happening and we want to stop that.

“This is not the first time,” added Menchaca, that the Trump administration has launched “a really hard hit against our immigrant community and it leaves people really confused about what they can do, what their rights are, what role we have as a city.

“This is still proposed,” he added,  “so this rule can change again. It can get better or just not happen at all.”

The event is sponsored by the New York Immigration Coalition, the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, La Colmena Staten Island Job Center, the Centro del Inmigrante, New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), and Make the Road New York.