Immigrants Urge Legislators to Stop Provision That Would Leave Them Homeless

Quickly adopted provision in Welfare Reform Bill would eliminate state public housing eligibility for many immigrant victims of natural disasters, torture and sexual violence

IMG_6149Nov. 13, 2013 BOSTON — Tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., domestic abuse victims, war survivors, and others will walk the halls of the State House to visit legislators, urging them to reject a hastily adopted provision to the Welfare Reform Bill  that would effectively bar many immigrants from public housing. The provision had been rejected by the State House a number of times over the past year, but similar measures were quickly added to the Welfare Reform Bill in both the House and the Senate versions.

"This is the same harmful, ill-considered measure that the Housing Bond Bill Conference Committee had previously rejected when they understood the real impact on families," said Shannon Erwin, State Policy Director for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). "We are dismayed that it would be adopted again,  putting so many people at risk of losing their stable housing."

Among those who would lose access to state-supported  public housing if the measure were adopted in the final bill are victims of domestic violence, including U Visa holders and applicants, and self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act who have not yet received their green cards.

"The women we work with often have stayed in their abusive relationships because they have nowhere else to turn— their abusers have often withheld a promised green card, and threatened them with deportation and the loss of their children," said Gladys Ortiz, Court Advocate Coordinator of Reach Beyond Domestic Violence.

"If housing is taken away from them, it often forces the victim to return to their abusers because there simply is not enough shelter space for them," Ortiz continued. "They depend on the system for help, and the system is taking away from them one of their only means of safety. As for their children, without housing, advocates like me would be forced to report them to the Department of Children and Families, pulling them out from their mothers' arms. This would cause huge damage to everyone, and it makes a travesty of our promise to always put children first."

Among the many other statuses affected are those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), such as Haitian survivors of the devastating 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake.

"The earthquake in Haiti was one of the greatest natural disasters ever recorded in this hemisphere, taking not only thousands of lives but many more thousands of homes," said Henry Milorin, an active and engaged member of the Haitian community in support of social justice. "It's horrible to consider that many of the survivors would now lose their homes due to an easily fixable man-made disaster."

"We hope that members of the conference committee will take the time to recognize how harmful this measure would be, and eliminate it from the final bill," Shannon Erwin concluded. "As winter approaches and the year draws to a close, it's terrible to consider that the legislature would aim an eviction notice at anyone, whatever their immigration status. We invite the press to join us at ten tomorrow, when we meet at the Hooker entrance to visit legislators, so the public can learn more about this crucial issue.”