New York, Connecticut and Vermont Sue Trump Administration Over Public Charge Rule

August 20, 2019 by Dan McCue
Asylum-seeking immigrants line up at a border fence in Tijuana, Mexico on June 20, 2018. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

WASHINGTON — New York State, Connecticut, Vermont and the City of New York sued the Trump administration Tuesday over its new Public Charge Rule, which aims to deny green cards and visas to immigrants that use or have used government assistance programs.

“Generations of citizens landed on the welcoming shores of Ellis Island with nothing more than a dream in their pockets,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James in announcing the lawsuit in the Southern District of New York.

“The Trump Administration’s thinly veiled efforts to only allow those who meet their narrow ethnic, racial and economic criteria to gain a path to citizenship is a clear violation of our laws and our values,” she continued. “Quite simply, under this rule, more children will go hungry, more families will go without medical care and more people will be living in the shadows and on the streets. We cannot and we will not let that happen.”

The lawsuit claims that by imposing the rule, the Trump administration and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security disregarded clear congressional intent and a century’s worth of case law holding that immigrants who use basic, non-cash benefits are not considered public charges because they are not primarily dependent on the government.

Additionally, the plaintiffs say, the public charge rule weaponizes the public charge inquiry to specifically target immigrants of color, immigrants with disabilities, and low-income immigrants.

Finally, the rule fundamentally misunderstands that these non-cash programs are designed to help immigrants who arrive in this country with limited means move out of poverty and achieve upward mobility, the plaintiffs claim.

They also assert the overall health and wellbeing of immigrant communities that use vital public benefit programs will be negatively impacted by the new rule.

The plaintiffs claim the rule would cause a sharp decline in Medicaid enrollment, and individuals who would have otherwise had access to healthcare are at risk of living with undiagnosed and untreated conditions.

Economically, impacted communities can be expected to experience increased poverty rates, housing instability, a reduced workforce, and an overall decrease in total economic productivity, the lawsuit claims.

“The new ‘public charge’ rule creates fear, confusion, and distress for our immigrant communities,” said NYC Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter.

“The new rule broadens the definition of a public charge, increasing the number of non-citizens who may be found inadmissible, denied a green card, or denied a visa on public charge grounds. As a result of this new rule, families may forego benefits and services to which they are legally entitled because they fear that accepting those benefits or services may jeopardize their ability or the ability of family members to stay in the United States.,” Carter said. “In this lawsuit, the City will challenge the new rule on the grounds that it violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution. The City will defend immigrant New Yorkers from this unlawful expansion of the public charge rule.”

This case is being handled by Senior Trial Counsel Elena Goldstein, Civil Enforcement Section Chief of the Labor Bureau Ming-Qi Chu, and Assistant Attorneys General Abigail Rosner, Amanda Meyer, and Ajay Saini, under the supervision of Chief Counsel for Federal Initiatives Matthew Colangelo. 

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