Oct. 24, 2019 “STAND UP FOR IMMIGRANT JUSTICE PAU HANA” FUNDRAISER
Thanks to all who attended or supported our first annual fall fundraising event, at the beautiful Cafe Julia in downtown Honolulu. Proceeds are supporting immigration legal services for low-income immigrants in Hawaii. Photos are posted here.
TLC open house in honor of Citizenship Day, Sept. 17th!
On Sept. 17, 2019 The Legal Clinic hosted an informal open house for community service providers, faith leaders, and others to learn more about our FREE or low-cost services: one-on-one immigration legal consultation/representation, community outreach, and advocacy.
August 2019: Public Charge Rule Harmful to Immigrant Working Class Families in Hawai‘i
The Trump administration recently announced its latest and most far-reaching attack on legal immigrants in the United States. Under existing law, those who are deemed “public charges” cannot attain permanent resident status. The Trump administration is greatly expanding the public charge rule to make it far more difficult for working class immigrants to become permanent residents. The new rule will take effect on October 15, 2019, unless efforts to fight it – in the courts or Congress – succeed.
The new rule would broaden the definition of the xenophobic term “public charge,” which was first enacted into law at around the same time the Chinese Exclusion Act was adopted and which was also used to turn away Jewish refugees during World War II. Under the prior rule, a public charge was someone who was likely to primarily depend on the government for subsistence, i.e., receiving cash benefits for income maintenance or long-term medical care at government expense. Under the new definition, a public charge is someone who is likely to receive one or more benefits from an expanded list – which now includes SNAP or food stamps, public housing or Section 8 housing vouchers and rental assistance, and Medicaid (with exceptions for emergency medical conditions, children under 21, and pregnant women) – even for a short period of time.
Many lawful, working immigrants in Hawai‘i could be denied legal permanent residence simply because they are not wealthy. In a state where 48% of the general population is a single paycheck away from being houseless and one in five residents is an immigrant, the new rule have devastating effects. Families are likely to forgo food, housing, medical assistance and other necessary services for fear of jeopardizing their status. The rule could also dramatically undercut the state’s ability to attract foreign workers in many of the industries that are critical to Hawai‘i’s economic prosperity, such as healthcare and tourism.
In fact, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, the new rule could impact as many as 110,000 families in Hawai‘i and cost the islands more than $127 million dollars. “If it goes into effect, this sweeping and misguided policy will harm families and our local economy,” says Bettina Mok, Executive Director of The Legal Clinic (TLC) in Honolulu.
Not all immigrants are subject to the rule. For example, the public charge rule does not apply to lawful permanent residents applying for citizenship, asylees and refugees, VAWA self-petitioners, U and T visa holders, Special Immigrant Juveniles, and certain other categories of non-citizens. And benefits used by U.S. citizen family members and those not applying for a green card do not count. TLC encourages those concerned by the rule to seek the advice of an immigration attorney or organization before disenrolling from any benefit.
TLC also urges Hawai‘i residents to ask their Congressional Representatives to support H.R. 3222, which would defund the public charge rule. “Hawai‘i immigrants have made major positive contributions to our state. We must continue demonstrating leadership on immigrant justice issues and resist inhumane policies that tear families apart,” says TLC Board Chair Rev. Amy Wake.
For more information, including developments in the litigation efforts to prevent the new rule from taking effect in October, visit www.protectingimmigrantfamilies.org.
A New Office Opens
On June 20th, 2019, “World Refugee Day,” The Legal Clinic held a soft opening of its new office space at the First United Methodist Church of Honolulu. Invited guests included founding board members, and other early supporters–donors, grantmakers, volunteers and partners. Legal services will begin in September, when our staff attorney is on board. Between now and then we are assisting with Know Your Rights efforts in the community for COFA citizens and immigrants, as well as US citizenship workshops for green card holders. We are gearing up for escalating demands ahead, and are so grateful to our supporters, past, present, and future!
Providing compassionate and free/affordable immigration legal services to immigrants and COFA citizens in Hawaii