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New York State and City Sue Trump Administration Over ‘Public Charge’ Rule

Donald Trump Photo: WhiteHouse.Gov

Aug. 20, 2019 By Allie Griffin

New York City, New York State, Connecticut and Vermont have filed a joint lawsuit against President Trump’s new public charge rule, which makes it easier for the federal government to deny green cards and visas to immigrants who use or have used certain public assistance programs.

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed the joint lawsuit in the Southern District of New York today.

More than 15 states have already filed separate lawsuits against the new rule.

The concept of the public charge is not new and immigrants have been rejected on this basis in the past. However, the new rule is much stricter and expansive. For instance, immigrants who receive public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, and housing subsidies are much more likely to be denied visas. The rule is scheduled to take effect Oct. 15.

James argues that the rule specifically targets immigrants of color, immigrants with disabilities and low-income immigrants and puts these communities at risk, while creating adverse impacts on public health and the economy. She fears that many immigrants will go without much needed services, concerned that they may jeopardize their visa status.

“Generations of citizens landed on the welcoming shores of Ellis Island with nothing more than a dream in their pockets,” James said. “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. 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.”

In the suit, the coalition argues that the Department of Homeland Security’s new public charge definition disregards 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, according to the Attorney General’s office.

“The new ‘public charge’ rule creates fear, confusion, and distress for our immigrant communities,” NYC Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter said. “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. In this lawsuit, the City will challenge the new rule on the grounds that it violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution.”

More than 1 million immigrants live in Queens and nearly half is either undocumented or holds a green card-level or similar status, according to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. The borough also has the highest number of undocumented immigrants in the city at 184,000.

“The ultimate city of immigrants will never stop fighting President Trump’s xenophobic policies,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “We are proud to join the Attorney General and let our immigrant brothers and sisters know New York stands united behind them. When you mess with our neighbors, you mess with all of us. To the President, we’ll see you in court.”

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