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Allegheny

Peduto calls for united front to oppose federal rules on immigration

Bob Bauder
| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, 5:18 p.m.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and local immigration advocates Wednesday called for a united effort to oppose proposed federal rules that would deny green cards to immigrants if they use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers and other forms of public assistance.

The mayor and others said the proposed rule change has spread fear among Pittsburgh’s legal immigrants, who are reluctant to apply for public aid programs even at the risk of losing homes and suffering health problems because they worry they will be denied visas.

“What we’re talking about right now is nothing more than hatred,” Peduto said. “It’s hatred of those that look different, pray different or come from a different part of the world. My message is very clear: Get involved. Let any of your elected officials know that they have to speak out. If these laws were enacted, would your family be in this country?”

Federal law already requires those seeking green cards to prove they will not be a burden — or “public charge” — but the new rules detail a broad range of programs that could disqualify them.

The Department of Homeland Security has said that current and past receipt of certain public benefits above thresholds would be considered “a heavily weighed negative factor” in granting green cards as well as temporary stays.

The proposal “will clearly define long-standing law to ensure that those seeking to enter and remain in the United States either temporarily or permanently can support themselves financially and will not be reliant on public benefits,” the department said.

A 60-day public comment period on the rule changes ends Dec. 10.

Casa San Jose, a community resource center based in Beechview, and other organizations are hosting a “public comment party” opposing the changes from 6-8 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services offices at 1 Smithfield St., Downtown.

“What this really is is a way to scare our communities, and that’s exactly what’s happening,” said Monica Ruiz, executive director of Casa San Jose. “Not only is that going to hurt families, but it’s going to hurt our communities when children don’t have medical assistance, they don’t have preventative care, they’re not getting their vaccinations and they’re not able to attend school.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobbauder. The Associated Press contributed.

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