Public charge

A protestor holds a sign reading ‘No one is Illegal’ during a Sept. 14 rally in New York against U.S. immigration policy. Three courts Oct. 11 issued injunctions blocking implementation of the public charge rule, which would deny permanent status to immigrants who have received federal aid and benefits or are likely to do so in the future. Indian American immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta hailed the rulings. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

In an 11th hour move, three courts Oct. 11 issued injunctions blocking implementation of the public charge rule, which would deny permanent status to immigrants who have received federal aid and benefits or are likely to do so in the future.

Indian American immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta hailed the rulings. “These judges are upholding the rule of law and protecting the nation from Trump’s authoritarianism,” he tweeted.

The public charge rule — which was finalized Aug. 12 — was scheduled to go into effect Oct. 15. It would potentially deny green cards to one million immigrants each year who are currently living in the U.S. and have received any of several forms of federal public aid, including food stamps — a program known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP — Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and Temporary Aid for Needy Families, or TANF. (See earlier India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2qd9r67)

Immigrants would have to be able to demonstrate an earning capacity of at least $41,000 for a family of two. The new rule would greatly impact Indian American immigrant families: seven percent live at or below federal poverty levels.

The rule would also largely bar elderly Indian immigrants who wish to immigrate to the U.S. to live with their children. Immigration advocates have noted that elderly people are unlikely to be able to demonstrate an earning capacity of any amount.

The U.S. District Court of Southern New York issued a nationwide injunction blocking implementation of the rule.

"Overnight, the rule will expose individuals to economic insecurity, health instability, denial of their path to citizenship, and potential deportation," wrote U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels.

"It is a rule that will punish individuals for their receipt of benefits provided by our government, and discourages them from lawfully receiving available assistance intended to aid them in becoming contributing members of our society," he wrote.

“The rule is intended to immediately cause the immigrant community to dis-enroll in public benefits,” added Judge George Daniels, citing the adverse impact to the health care industry and the nation’s overall health, as more people opted out of public health care benefits.

In his 24-page ruling, Daniels also cited a $3.6 billion economic “trickle down” hit the country, as well as a significant loss of jobs and tax revenues. The judge said his injunction should apply nationally to treat immigrants in the same manner, regardless of which state in which they live.

The lawsuit was filed jointly by the states of New York, Vermont, and Connecticut.

Daniels’ injunction also prevents the Department of Homeland Security from using new forms relating to public charge.

Similar injunctions, lesser in scope, were issued the same day by U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in California, as well as one in the Eastern District of Washington.

In a statement, the White House expressed its disappointment at the injunctions. “Yet another judicial ruling has blocked — on a nationwide basis — this Administration’s efforts to restore integrity to the immigration system, consistent with the plain meaning and clear intent of the law,” said the administration, noting that some version of public charge has been in effect for more than 100 years.

“But the rulings today prevent our nation’s immigration officers from ensuring that immigrants seeking entry to the United States will be self-sufficient and instead allow non-citizens to continue taking advantage of our generous but limited public resources reserved for vulnerable Americans.”

“These injunctions are the latest inexplicable example of the Administration being ordered to comply with the flawed or lawless guidance of a previous administration instead of the actual laws passed by Congress,” said the White House, noting that courts have blocked several of the Administration’s initiatives, including the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum hailed the injunctions. “The discriminatory public charge rule is meant to pick and choose who could immigrate to or stay in this country, said Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of APIAHF, in a press statement.

“The public charge rule has led to many families and individuals to dis-enroll from health programs, forgoing their care in fear of repercussions,” she said, adding: “The court’s ruling is not just a win for immigrant communities like ours, but a win for American values.”

The National Immigrant Law Center has urged immigrants to continue to use the public benefits for which they are eligible.

In related breaking news, the White House announced late Oct. 11 that Kevin McAleenan, acting director of the Department of Homeland Security, had resigned. Trump praised McAleenan’s work in a tweet.

“Omg. A lot of Trump people seem to want to spend time with their families,” quipped Indian American former U.S. Solicitor General Neel Katyal in a tweet, riffing on the phrase often used when stepping down from a public post. 

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