lawsuit public charge rule

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (pictured) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Aug. 16 that the state of California is suing the Trump administration challenging the legality of a new "public charge" rule that would make it difficult for immigrants to obtain green cards who receive public assistance like food stamps and Medicaid. San Francisco and Santa Clara counties jointly filed a similar lawsuit Aug. 13 against the new rule, which has broad impact on Indian American green card holders. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The state of California Aug. 16 filed a case against the Trump administration stating that the new public charge rule is illegal.

The new public charge rule has broad impact on Indian American green card holders as well as U.S. citizens seeking to permanently bring over their aging parents from India. Several immigration experts told India-West immediately after the rule was announced Aug. 12 that they expected the rule to be challenged in court. (see earlier story: https://bit.ly/2ZcVj8R)

The counties of San Francisco and Santa Clara in California jointly filed a similar lawsuit Aug. 13, the day the new rule was entered into the Federal Register. Several immigrant rights organizations also jointly filed a separate lawsuit Aug. 16.

All lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The public charge rule is scheduled to be implemented Oct. 15 unless any of the lawsuits are successful in getting an injunction, which would temporarily prohibit the Trump administration from carrying out the directive until its legality is established.

The California state lawsuit claims that the new rule — announced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Aug. 12 — targets immigrants and their families by creating “unnecessary new barriers to lawful admission to the United States,” and discourages them from accessing federal health, nutrition, and housing programs.

“Immigrants literally built this nation, and today help make California an economic engine that powers our country,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom, in a press statement.

“This new rule, designed to create fear in immigrant families, is cruel and threatens our public health. That is not who we are in California, and not who we are as Americans. We’re standing up to the Trump Administration in court to protect our economy, our families, and our most sacred values,” said the governor. The state has gone up against the Trump administration several times, most notably in its sanctuary policies, which shield undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The state noted in its lawsuit that the public charge rule will disproportionately block admission of non-white, non-European immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and Africa. It will also prevent higher numbers of immigrants of color from extending their visas or becoming lawful permanent residents, and ultimately create more obstacles in the path to U.S. citizenship.

The state claimed that the new rule was “arbitrary and capricious, punishing immigrants for participating in widely-used federal aid programs designed to promote self-sufficiency, and added that the rule “interferes with the states’ rights to protect their residents, and exceeds the administration’s authority under federal immigration law by circumventing congressional intent.”

The San Francisco and Santa Clara counties lawsuit noted that immigrants would be forced to choose between obtaining permanent legal status and accessing critical aid programs. It also noted that all taxpayers would be impacted as more families shifted into poverty and homelessness.

“This rule forces people to make an impossible choice: their health or a better future for their family,” said San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera in a press statement, stating the rule was illegal.

“We will all bear the cost of this misguided policy, which will shift millions of dollars in health care costs onto the taxpayers of San Francisco and Santa Clara counties. At the same time, it will siphon millions from our local economies and drive more people toward homelessness. This rule is rubbish. We’re determined to see that it ends up in the legal garbage bin with the rest of this administration’s unlawful policies,” he said.

“The Trump Administration’s new rule is an unlawful, foolish attack on immigrant communities,” said Santa Clara County Counsel James  Williams. “This latest effort by the Trump Administration to target immigrants, including those who are lawfully seeking visas and green cards, is abhorrent,” he said.

Immigrant rights organizations who are plaintiffs in a separate suit also excoriated the Trump administration. Laboni Hoq, litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, said in a press statement: “By including criteria such as English language proficiency as a negative factor for obtaining permanent residency, the administration is telling immigrants that they are not welcome here. This is unacceptable. Xenophobia has no place in our country, let alone our laws."

The new rule 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.

Immigrants applying for green cards must also be able to document that they earn at least 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, about $41,000 per year for a couple, and about $73,000 for a family of five.

Nationwide, about seven percent of Indian Americans live at or below the federal poverty level, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute. Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for most forms of federal public aid.

The rule would almost entirely prohibit most elderly Indian parents from migrating to the U.S., as they would largely be unable to document the capacity to earn $41,000 per year. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will use a variety of factors to determine eligibility for migration to the U.S., such as level of education, current income, ability to speak English, age, and chronic diseases.

More than half of all green card-based marriage applications would also be denied, because of the minimum income requirements of the new rule.

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