February 19, 2021
Dear Biden Administration,
We are writing on behalf of our Audacious Young Women of Action program (AYWA) at the Arab-American Family Support Center. The Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization created in 1994 to provide culturally and linguistically competent, trauma-informed social services for immigrants and refugees across New York City. While our doors are open to all, over 25 years, we have developed expertise serving low-income Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) immigrant populations.
AYWA, specifically, is a women-only group of young adults, who meet weekly as part of a peer-to-peer support network. In this group, young women gain exposure to role models, explore possible life pathways, share their struggles, collectively craft solutions, and address relationship issues and cultural expectations. We are working to explore the meaning of empowerment and identify ways to grow independently and in our communities. We inspire each other to challenge preconceived notions about what a woman should be and can do.
One of our current goals is to be advocates in our community. Some of the projects we worked on included encouraging the community to vote in the 2020 election and thanking beauty and clothing industries for their diversity and inclusion. Our organization, AAFSC, sent out a letter late last year that was signed with 500 other organizations across the US to advocate for an end to public charge, and we recently received word that your administration has allowed for the review of former President Trump’s public charge ruling. We are hopeful to see more changes after the review on public charge is completed. AYWA would like to follow up on our organization’s past letter by further advocating for public charge ourselves.
We know public charge to be an immigration law that refers to someone who may need government assistance (public benefits) in the future. It is inherently unfair and has the potential to erode family stability because it discourages them from receiving the help they may need. This law has impacted us personally and many in our community by instilling fear in the use of public benefits that are very much needed in our less fortunate families. We feel this law is a form of discrimination because it expresses that immigrants are undeserving of additional support, especially in the time of COVID-19. We have also seen many in the community who fear applying for public assistance and family members who are trying to get into the United States but are too afraid to do so because of fear of consequences if they are deemed a public charge. Public benefits serve as a form of support and allows for the community to feel comfortable and safe in terms of their means of living. Public benefits offer stability to immigrant families that may already be facing many challenges navigating their new lives in a new country. We urge you to see the detrimental effects of the public charge ruling on immigrant families and put an end to it.
We speak on behalf of our vulnerable, immigrant communities – we support those who are scared, and we are their voice. Please continue to make this a priority. We thank you for making this an urgent matter and for ordering that the public charge ruling undergoes an official review. Thank you for your time and consideration, and for reading our concerns! We appreciate your attention on the matter.
The Audacious Young Woman of Action at The Arab American Family Support Center
(PHOTO: Creative Commons – Charles Edward Miller)