Judge blocks Trump plan to bar more immigrants who get federal assistance

Henrietta Brewer
October 12, 2019

Judge George B. Daniels issued a preliminary nationwide injunction, stopping the rule from taking effect on October 15.

Several non-profits sued Cuccinelli's office in September, shortly after the rule change was rolled out publicly.

The public charge rule laid out factors immigration officers should weigh, including household income and English proficiency.

Those benefits that would be designated included Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), as well as most forms of Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

"The rule is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of justification".

Federal law already requires immigrants seeking to become permanent USA residents to prove they will not be a burden on the country - a "public charge", in legal terms -but the new rules detail a broader range of programs that could disqualify applicants.

He went on to claim that the definition has "no support in the history of US immigration law" and described the rule as "repugnant". As Common Dreams and other outlets reported previous year, providers of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) reported that the president's proposal led to fewer applications for benefits, as families likely feared being targeted by Trump's anti-immigration agenda. Under the new rule, applicants who have received public-assistance benefits for a 12-month period within the last three years will be denied.

Caseworkers would also take into account the petitioner's age, educational skills, English language proficiency and health to determine whether they are likely to rely on the government for support. When a draft of the rule was published late past year for a 60-day period of public review, it received more than 260,000 comments, a lot of them from individuals, organizations and jurisdictions opposed to the regulation.

Critics say the rule changes are discriminatory and would have the effect of barring immigrants with lower incomes in favor of those with wealth.

Even though the rule has not been implemented yet, researchers have already detailed a "chilling effect" among immigration communities, including in mixed-status households where some family members are undocumented immigrants, while other are permanent residents and USA citizens. Previously it applied to immigrants who would be primarily dependent on the government.

The government has said the rule changes would ensure that those gaining legal residency status are self-sufficient. Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli, who unveiled the final rule in August, even offered an alternative line to "The New Colossus" poem inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty to advocate for the regulation.

Cuccinelli, who is named in the lawsuit, said the inscription should read instead: "Give me your exhausted and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge". They consider it a betrayal of Emma Lazarus' words on the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your exhausted, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free".

Judge George B. Daniels, of the Southern District of New York, ruled on Friday afternoon that the plaintiffs - five organizations that work to aid immigrants, as well as the governments of New York state, New York City, Connecticut and Vermont - are likely to succeed in their claims against the Trump administration.

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