Providence Representatives Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) and Rebecca Kislak (Democrat, District 4, Providence)today condemned President Donald Trump’s latest effort to restrict immigration – not just for those who immigrate illegally but also those who follow the proper channels – as “immoral, racist and decidedly un-American.”

The Trump administration announced yesterday that it would proceed with implementing aggressive measures to restrict legal immigration: denying green cards to immigrants if they use Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), housing vouchers or other forms of public assistance.

“As one who benefited from the food stamp program and an immigrant myself, I am appalled by this administration’s policies that target people primarily from South and Central America and the Caribbean,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell. “This president has consistently shown that he is a racist. He needs to understand that food is a basic human right, and wanting to deny people the ability to eat is an evil, immoral and ungodly act of cowardice.”

Federal immigration law already requires those seeking legal status to demonstrate that they will not be a burden on the nation, but does not block applicants who have needed assistance as they are establishing their lives in this country.

The new restrictions will result in greater poverty, poorer health and more insecurity for immigrants who are a part of our society and who are following the rules, working and paying taxes, the two representatives said.

Rebecca Kislak

Representative Kislak, a former legal services attorney who now works in health policy, submitted comments opposed to the changes during the rulemaking process last year, saying the restrictions are already causing immigrant families in need to go without healthcare, food and housing that they need, causing lasting detriment to those families and the greater community.

“Already, I am hearing stories from constituents, healthcare providers and members of immigrant communities that fear is deterring immigrants from seeking healthcare. These rules would exacerbate real and imagined fear of immigration consequences for individuals simply taking care of themselves and their families,” wrote Representative Kislak in her comments, submitted to the federal government last year. She also pointed out that the rule would increase the number of uninsured people in Rhode Island, resulting in more acute problems being treated in emergency rooms as uncompensated care that increases health care costs for all.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell, a Providence school teacher who emigrated from Jamaica as an adult, said the struggle to establish a new life in this country is enormous. Denying legal status to law-abiding immigrants because they needed any assistance along the way is a ruse to keep out people of color from poor backgrounds who seek to become Americans, she said.

Rhode Island has long been a melting pot of immigrants from all over the world, and the two representatives encouraged all Rhode Islanders to take a stand against racism and federal policies aimed at harming the immigrant community.

“As Rhode Islanders, we will fight to protect our immigrant neighbors who work hard and pay taxes. We will fight to ensure that this kind of hatred and bigotry find no home in our state,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell.

[From a press release]