Mayor Martin J. Walsh, city councilors, and advocates on Monday ripped a Trump administration proposal to make it significantly harder for immigrants receiving certain public benefits to obtain green cards.
Walsh, speaking during a rally in the ornate Great Hall inside Faneuil Hall, called the administration’s proposed changes to the rules surrounding green card applications a “disgrace.”
“It will hurt mothers who are trying to feed their children, grandparents trying to get ... basic health care needs,” said Walsh, a son of immigrants. “These are our friends. These are our neighbors. These are the people we go to church with. These are the people we love. These are the people we associate with every single day. These are human beings.”
He urged the crowd of roughly 100 attendees, many of whom carried signs that said, “Stand Up For Immigrant Families,” to speak out against the proposal and advised immigrants currently receiving benefits not to drop them while the proposed rule change is pending.
Walsh’s words were echoed by several speakers, including Boston City Councilors Andrea Campbell and Josh Zakim, as well as Heloisa Maria Galvão of the Brazilian Women’s Group in Brighton and Liza Ryan of the MIRA Coalition.
Many speakers implored the crowd to submit public comments against the proposal via an online portal maintained by the federal government.
The proposal, Galvão said, is “mean-spirited because it penalizes the neediest.” Galvão, who previously took the US citizenship oath in the Great Hall, said advocates can beat back the proposal with a concerted opposition campaign.
“If we fight, we win,” she said. “Yes, we can.”
The rally followed a Sept. 22 announcement from the Department of Homeland Security that the agency is “proposing to consider current and past receipt of designated public benefits above certain thresholds as a heavily weighed negative factor” in applications to temporarily or permanently remain in the country.
The DHS has described the proposal as an update of longstanding federal law dating back to at least 1882. The proposed rule change remains pending during a 60-day public comment period.
According to the DHS statement, benefits that could sink a green card application include “federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid (with limited exceptions for Medicaid benefits paid for an ‘emergency medical condition,’ and for certain disability services related to education), Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), institutionalization for long-term care at government expense, Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and Public Housing. The first three benefits listed above are cash benefits that are covered under current policy.”
The administration has said the proposal would not affect refugees or asylum seekers or immigrants serving in the military. It would affect about 382,000 people annually, according to administration figures.
During Monday’s rally, Campbell, the City Council president, told the crowd that all her colleagues on the panel stand in solidarity with the immigrant community and its allies.
“I know that we’re going to overcome this rule, this president,” she said. “ ... The reality is, this president came in with an agenda. He’s not just racist, he’s xenophobic. And he came with an agenda, whether we like it or not.”