Public charge rule for immigrants ‘an act of political racism,’ officials say

Activist Ravi Ragbir joined elected officials on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to denounce a new immigration rule by President Donald Trump's administration. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

New York State Attorney General Letitia James plans to sue the Trump administration to block the rule.

Activist Ravi Ragbir joined elected officials on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to denounce a new immigration rule by President Donald Trump's administration.
Activist Ravi Ragbir joined elected officials on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to denounce a new immigration rule by President Donald Trump’s administration. Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

A new rule that would deny permanent residence to legal immigrants who receive public assistance or fail to meet income standards is “an act of political racism” that could keep thousands of New Yorkers from accessing food assistance and medical services, activists and local politicians said Wednesday.

President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday issued a rule that would keep applicants who receive such public assistance as food stamps, Medicaid, public housing or welfare — or who are deemed likely to do so — from obtaining green cards.

At a rally on the steps of City Hall Wednesday, several City Council members said they plan to fight the rule, which is slated to take effect on Oct. 15. The rule, which could also keep some prospective immigrants from entering the U.S., is a long-anticipated one, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams noted.

“Donald Trump and his administration are doing exactly what they said they were going to do,” Williams said. “They are putting forth policies that are based in nationalism and supremacy.”

Steve Choi, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, center right, called the rule an
Steve Choi, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, center right, called the rule an “act of political racism.” Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Steve Choi, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said the rule "is a sign by the Trump Administration to all of us, and it says: if you are not white, or you are not wealthy, then you are not welcome here."

While officials have said the rule would include exceptions for refugees, asylum-seekers, pregnant women, children and some members of the military, Councilman Mark Levine maintained it could result in “hundreds of thousands of families in the city [going] without food they need, without medical care they need.”

Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who chairs the Council’s immigration committee, implored immigrants throughout the five boroughs “not to panic” and urged anyone concerned to call 311 to connect with lawyers provided by the city.

“This isn’t going to happen today,” he said, noting that the Trump administration will face legal challenges to the rule.

Two counties in California have already filed lawsuits over the rule. New York State Attorney General Letitia James also plans to sue the Trump administration to block the rule, her deputy press secretary Enny Pichardo said at the rally.

“The city has been preparing for this moment, and this attack, for a long time. And we’re ready,” Menchaca said. “You’re in New York City, you’re a New Yorker, and we’re with you.”

Maya Rajamani