Housing and college tuition are too expensive for many Long Island residents and America’s immigration policies are a mess, but those problems will not be resolved until President Donald Trump leaves the White House, Rep. Kathleen Rice said during a public meeting Sunday at Roosevelt Public Library.
Rice (D-Garden City) also praised Newsday’s “Long Island Divided” series, a three-year investigation that found evidence that minority homebuyers face widespread discrimination in Suffolk and Nassau counties more than 50 years after passage of the Fair Housing Act.
“Nassau County is one of the most segregated communities in the country,” Rice told the 75 or so people who attended Sunday’s town hall-style meeting. “It is without explanation. That is why I applaud Newsday and that investigation that they did. I am working with HUD to see how we can address this issue. There is no way for you to get ahead if you can’t put a roof over your head.”
When one constituent expressed frustration at being unable to afford to buy a home because of crippling student loans — even though he has worked eight years as a teacher — Rice said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has actually proposed policies that make the situation worse.
“The student loan issue won’t be resolved under this administration,” Rice said. “Betsy DeVos does not care about people who have loans that they can’t pay back. She does not care if they have been ripped off by a for-profit college. She’s actually instituted a rule making it hard for people who have been ripped off by for-profit colleges to get their loans discharged.”
Rice, the former Nassau County district attorney first elected to Congress in 2014, said she will begin holding town hall meetings every month, although she apologized for scheduling this one on a Sunday when people might be at church. Rice is up for re-election in November.
When another constituent asked about protections for hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers” — young people born outside the United States who were brought here as small children — Rice said nothing will get done until Trump leaves office. The Trump administration in 2017 declared an end to President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which barred protected Dreamers from deportation, saying it was unconstitutional.
“Nothing is going to get done regarding immigration policy writ large with Donald Trump in the White House,” Rice said. “Period. Not just him. They don’t want to do anything. We have something in the House that would protect Dreamers. [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell is not going to bring it to the floor even though there are senators on both sides of the aisle that would support it.”
Rice urged town hall attendees to vote, and to participate in the 2020 census. She said the Trump administration tried to include a question about citizenship to frighten immigrants and undocumented residents from participating in the census so it can slash millions of dollars in federal aid to Nassau County.
“We can’t afford to have that fear anymore,” Rice said. “We have a big immigrant community here, thankfully. We have to get the word out that everyone, no matter what your status is, you have to fill out that paperwork. Federal funding that we deserve will be based on that.”