In a reversal of his predecessor’s policy, Mayor de Blasio has quietly stopped requiring immigrants’ sponsors to repay the city if the people they helped go on welfare.
De Blasio is also refunding close to $1 million to 250 New Yorkers who were compelled to cough up money under the policy, according to budget documents released last week.
Most of the refunds are going to sponsors who are relatives of the immigrants they sponsored, officials said.
The payback policy stems from a 1997 federal law, which requires sponsors of immigrants to sign a contract saying they are financially responsible if the people they sponsored accept some public benefits.
The feds didn’t enforce the law, and no city adopted the policy until New York took it up in 2012 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The city gave low-income sponsors, victims of domestic abuse, asylum seekers and refugees a pass, along with recipients of food stamps and Medicaid.
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli said the de Blasio administration ended the paybacks in February because it was “wrong.”
“These people are our neighbors. They pay taxes. And they deserve better,” said Barrios-Paoli.
Bloomberg’s former human resources commissioner, Robert Doar criticized de Blasio for reversing the policy, since it brought in revenue.
“It’s a source of savings,” he said.
The policy was projected to bring in $414,000 in 2015, a fraction of the $74 billion budget.
Immigrants’ rights advocates applauded the change, saying the practice did far more harm than good.
“A lot of the sponsors are working-class people, and they don’t have savings,” said Javier Valdes, of Make the Road New York.
The policy also left some immigrants reluctant to accept help, said Angela Fernandez, head of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.
“They have a right to these benefits, and this was deterring them,” said Fernandez. “Mayor de Blasio is really helping the most vulnerable.”