A federal judge in New York has temporarily blocked the Trump administration from denying green cards to many low income immigrants.
The rule, scheduled to take effect October 15th, would have broadened the definition of legal immigrants at risk of becoming a public charge, and dependent on the government. Those who take food stamps, Medicaid or housing assistance could have been denied green cards, along with those who have limited English skills.
In his ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels called the limited definition of a public charge “repugnant to the American Dream of prosperity and opportunity through hard work and upward mobility.”
The suit was brought by New York, Vermont and Connecticut. They argued that the rule was arbitrary and capricious because Congress defined a public charge much more strictly as someone not just temporarily but permanently dependent on the government.
Daniels said the government failed to provide a reasonable explanation for changing the definition of a public charge to someone who receives one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within a three-year period. He also chastised the administration for allowing the government to consider limited English proficiency as a factor likely to make someone at risk of becoming dependent on the government.
“Many, if not most, immigrants who arrived at these shores did not speak English. It is simply offensive to contend that English proficiency is a valid predictor of self-sufficiency.”
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, defended the rule by saying it lies squarely within existing law.
“Long-standing federal law requires aliens to rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their families, sponsors, and private organizations in their communities to succeed,” he said. “The public charge regulation defines this long-standing law to ensure those seeking to come or stay in the United States can support themselves financially and will not rely on public benefits. Through faithful execution of the law, we will ensure immigrants are able to successfully support themselves as they seek opportunity here.”
The Trump Administration has not said whether it would appeal the temporary injunction, which applies nationally.
Immigrant advocates praised the ruling Friday, along with New York City and state officials. Attorney General Letitia James said, “The message today is clear. That immigrants are welcome to this country and they should be supported as such.”
The suit was joined by immigrant rights groups and the Legal Aid Society of New York and the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director at Make the Road New York, said, “Today’s decision marks a major defeat for the Trump administration’s unlawful tactic to impose a racist wealth test on our immigration system. People should be able to access vital and life-saving benefits without having to worry if they could remain with their families.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the court’s decision to halt the public charge rule from going into effect nationwide “is only further proof of something we already know – the President’s policies are xenophobic and hateful, with no basis in fact or reality.”
Nonetheless, the city is gearing up for continued confusion over the rule. Many immigrants were already dropping benefits to which they were entitled out of fear. Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Bitta Mostofi encouraged them to call ActionNYC at 311 or 1-800-354-0365 and say “public charge.”