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AAF Hosts Press Conference on the Impact of the Public Charge Rule on Asian American Communities

New York City -- On Friday, the Asian American Federation (AAF) held a press conference to address recent changes to the federal administration’s "public charge" rule and its impacts on the Asian American community.

The new rule, published Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, states that the use of public benefits such as non-emergency Medicaid, food stamps, and subsidized housing can now be weighed against legal immigrants applying for a green card or visa extension or adjustment. Other factors, including wealth, age, and English proficiency, will now also be used to determine whether a person will become a "public charge."

The rule change has already had a negative effect on the wellbeing of Asian American New Yorkers. According to the NYC Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services (HRA/DSS) and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), Asian non-citizens are dis-enrolling from SNAP benefits at a rate eight times greater than Asian citizen recipients. Millions more are expected to dis-enroll and forgo benefits that help to prevent them from falling into a financial or health crisis.

Despite the public outcry that resulted in over 260,000 comments to the change to the public charge rule, the final rule will go into effect on October 15, 2019 unless it is delayed through litigation. Immigrant advocates and community leaders urge recipients of public benefits to NOT dis-enroll prior to October 15 and first seek free legal services provided by New York City to check on their public charge status and receive guidance to make the best decision for themselves and their families. They can call ActionNYC at 311 or 800-354-0365 and say “public charge” to access City-funded, trusted legal advice.

Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation (AAF): "This rule is designed to erode the family-based immigration system and deprive immigrants of benefits that keep them from the brink of hunger and destitution. 70 percent of Asian New Yorkers are immigrants, one in four live in poverty, and 96 percent of poor Asian children live with at least one immigrant parent. We urge families NOT to dis-enroll from the benefits that you depend on, and will keep fighting to make sure you get the support you need."

Congressmember Grace Meng, New York 6th District: "President Trump’s public charge rule is another ruthless and callous attack on immigrant communities. This cruel and un-American plan penalizes those who are in the U.S. legally. It will have dire consequences for hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants, mostly children and families who require critical safety net programs for health care, food and other basic and daily necessities. Just recently, we witnessed immigrants being targeted and gunned down, and President Trump’s raids separating children from their parents. Now, the President wants to weaponize basic human services to continue his assault against immigrants. Over the last year, I have urged the President to not implement this inhumane proposal and today I call on him to abandon this reckless effort. Hard working immigrants enrich our communities and contribute to our economy and nation. We cannot allow them to be kicked to the curb by this President."

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer: "This is nothing but a paper-thin attempt to scare immigrants into the shadows and make America whiter. It’s unconscionable, it’s un-American, and it’s designed to inflict as much suffering as possible on immigrant communities of color. We cannot allow the Trump administration’s cruel new "public charge" rule to foment panic and compel immigrants to needlessly un-enroll from the absolutely vital services and health benefits they qualify for. This city knows that diversity is our strength, and it’s on us to fight for it and for our immigrant neighbors to ensure no one is denied the support they need."

Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs: "Public charge is an assault on immigrant communities and American values. It's an attempt to make an America that only works for the rich and powerful—that's not who we are. New Yorkers must stand together with our immigrant sisters and brothers to fight for what we believe in. The City of New York is mounting a legal challenge with the New York State Attorney General’s office to fight this wrong-headed rule. We are committed to assisting all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, in getting the information and legal help they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families as to their usage of public benefits. If you are worried or have questions about how ‘public charge’ could impact you or your loved ones, you can call ActionNYC at 311 or 1-800-354-0365 and say ‘public charge’ to access free, City-funded, trusted legal advice."

Grace Bonilla, Human Resources Administrator, HRA/DSS: "As the Trump Administration continues its attacks on our City, our neighbors, and our values, we are fighting back with every tool at our disposal. Taking food from hard-working families and children is an unconscionable and un-American act of cruelty—and we will not stand for it. We intend to challenge this rule in court and need all New Yorkers to know: this change has not gone into effect, so do not dis-enroll without speaking to an attorney. If you have questions or concerns about your status, ActionNYC will provide free, confidential legal guidance. We at DSS remain committed to connecting all New Yorkers in need to the benefits for which they are eligible, ensuring they can support themselves and their families, no matter where they’ve come from."

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson: "Despite the overwhelming public outcry, the Trump Administration is moving forward with this horrific policy. The City remains committed to standing with our immigrant communities and fighting back against the effects of this rule. As of now, this rule goes into effect October 15, 2019. Every New Yorker who has questions about how the public charge rule might affect them should seek expert legal advice immediately. Call 311 and say ‘ActionNYC’ and you will be connected with a legal service provider who will be able to give advice based on the specifics of your case. This rule runs contrary to our City’s belief in the value of all New Yorkers, regardless of income, health, age or country of origin, and the Council will do everything within its authority to ensure that every New Yorker is provided the support they need to live in our beautiful, diverse and resilient City."

City Councilmember Margaret Chin, District 1: "As the representative of one of the largest and oldest Asian immigrant communities in New York City, I have seen firsthand the chilling effect the Federal Administration’s Public Charge rule has already had. With one in four Asian families living in poverty in New York City, it is unacceptable that this White House would attempt to deprive immigrants of the benefits that keep them afloat. I will continue to work with Mayor de Blasio and my fellow elected officials to fight for immigrants across New York."

Paul Mak, President/CEO, Brooklyn Chinese-American Association: "'Give me your tired and your poor.' For over two centuries, the Statue of Liberty has welcome immigrants from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds. The current administration is creating a wealth test for the immigrants. This is totally contrary to the welcoming spirit of this country since its foundation. Brooklyn consists of a multitude of migrants from many ethnic backgrounds and countries. The Chinese community is considered the fastest growing one among all the immigrant groups, having contributed tremendously to the economic growth of neighborhoods which were previously unstimulated. This anti-immigrant sentiment is dangerous and harmful to the society and the country as a whole."

Wayne Ho, President/CEO, Chinese-American Planning Council: "As the nation’s largest social services nonprofit for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, CPC understands that this rule will be devastating for generations to come, and will fight back against this rule and to make sure our community members have the information and resources that they need. CPC believes that immigrants do not have to choose between staying in this country and getting access to food, housing, and healthcare."

Mohammed Razvi, CEO, Council of Peoples Organization: "I grew up on food stamps. I grew up in the projects, and today, I stand before you as a person who owns four businesses, who manages an organization that provides services to 15,000 New Yorkers a day. I also manage three staff attorneys who can help immigrants with these questions about public charge, for free. We have to fight this cruel rule because immigrants like you and me built this country."

Dr. Vasundhara Kalasapudi, Executive Director, India Home: "Many Bengali seniors we serve who are here legally but struggle with poverty are afraid to apply for benefits because they think it might affect their citizenship status. They do not speak English fluently and do not understand the rules and are afraid that receiving benefits will affect their immigration status and that of their family members. We are struggling to reassure even citizens about this change to the public charge rule."

Linda Lee, President and CEO, Korean Community Services: "As we try to understand the ruling that came out this week, one thing we know for sure is that this will continue to instill fear and misunderstanding within our communities. We must work to ensure that there are no barriers to requesting public assistance benefits, especially for fear that this will negatively impact someone's immigration status. This administration cannot use public charge as a way to strong-arm an alternative agenda. We will continue to fight alongside our fellow leaders to both protect our communities and also fight for their rights."

Sudha Acharya, Executive Director, South Asian Council for Social Services: "It has only been three days since the new public charge rule has been released, but here at SACSS, we have already had five immigrant families that wanted to dis-enroll themselves and their children from health insurance. The fear among immigrant families is very real as some are willing to give up their critical lawful benefits. We are informing families not to make any hasty decisions and to consult trusted sources for legal advice before taking any drastic steps."