Clarke condemns Trump’s assault on Caribbean immigrants

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
Photo by Jason Speakman

Brooklyn Democratic Congresswoman, Yvette D. Clarke on Monday condemned United States President Donald J. Trump’s broadened assault on Caribbean and other immigrants by issuing new regulation aimed at legal immigrants who wish to remain in the US but whose dearth of financial resources are deemed likely to make them a burden on US taxpayers.

“Today’s public charge rule announcement has yet again come on the wrong side of history, treating immigrants as less than human,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told Caribbean Life. “The public charge rule means law-abiding immigrants will be put in an impossible position, having to forfeit health care, nutrition and housing programs in order to get a green card or receive other lawful status.

“Every single one of us has needed help from somebody else at some point in our lives, and this administration has lost sight of this fact with this compassionless public charge rule publication,” added the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “This rule is a way our administration has yet again bullied immigrants who will now be afraid to seek out essential services to which they are lawfully entitled.

“Where our ‘leader’s’ heart is supposed to be, is instead filled with hatred, bigotry and xenophobia,” Clarke continued. “Trump’s lackeys have followed his savage direction with such a cold disregard for Brown and Black people.”

The congresswoman said the new rule focuses on hundreds of thousands of Caribbean and other immigrants who enter the US legally annually, then apply to become permanent residents.

But, effective in October, Trump’s public charge rule will focus on what it characterized as a wealth test in determining if those immigrants have the resources to support themselves.

They would, therefore, be denied a green card if immigration officials find that they are likely to benefit for government entitlement programs, such as food stamps and subsidized housing.

On the other hand, immigrants with more resources and less likely to depend on the system will be issued a green card or permanent resident status.

In making the announcement on Monday, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said that the final rule amends the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations by prescribing how DHS will determine whether an immigrant, referred to “an alien”, is inadmissible to the United States based on his or her likelihood of becoming a public charge at any time in the future, as set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

USCIS said the final rule addresses its authority to permit an immigrant to submit a public charge bond in the context of adjustment of status applications.

The rule also makes nonimmigrant immigrants who have received certain public benefits above a specific threshold generally ineligible for extension of stay and change of status.

“For over a century, the public charge ground of inadmissibility has been part of our nation’s immigration laws. President Trump has delivered on his promise to the American people to enforce long-standing immigration law by defining the public charge inadmissibility ground that has been on the books for years,” said USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli.

“Throughout our history, self-sufficiency has been a core tenet of the American dream,” he added. “Self-reliance, industriousness and perseverance laid the foundation of our nation and have defined generations of hardworking immigrants seeking opportunity in the United States ever since. Through the enforcement of the public charge inadmissibility law, we will promote these long-standing ideals and immigrant success.”

DHS has revised the definition of “public charge” to incorporate consideration of more kinds of public benefits received, which the department believes will “better ensure that applicants subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground are self-sufficient.”

USCIS said the rule defines the term “public charge” to mean an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period, such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months.

The rule further defines the term “public benefit” to include any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs.

“This news is a cruel new step toward weaponizing programs that are intended to help people by making them, instead, a means of separating families and sending immigrants and communities of color one message: You are not welcome here,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the US National Immigration Law Center.

“It will have a dire humanitarian impact, forcing some families to forgo critical lifesaving health care and nutrition,” she warned. “The damage will be felt for decades to come.”

But Clarke said: “We will stand united in embracing our immigrant populations and do whatever it takes to right this wrong.”

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