US federal court rules against Trump administration's rule on vulnerable immigrants

Grant Boone
October 12, 2019

A federal judge on Friday blocked a sweeping regulation that would've made it easier for the Trump administration to reject green card and visa applications filed by low-income immigrants whom the government determines are or might become a burden on US taxpayers.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of NY wrote in a 14-page opinion that immigrants who would potentially be affected by the White House's "public charge" rule could suffer "irreparable harm" if the regulation went into effect October 15 as scheduled.

By the end of the day, two other federal judges issued rulings against the Trump administration.

The Department of Homeland Security published a rule change proposal in the Federal Register in August that would have expanded a 1999 rule to outline new categories of immigrants who would be barred from entry or denied visa renewals due to reliance on USA government benefits like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.

The White House budget office is also now reviewing a proposed Justice Department regulation that would allow the deport immigrants deemed a "public charge" under the new guidelines of the USCIS rule that was blocked on Friday.

President Trump has ordered that immigrants must prove they have enough money to buy health insurance or prove they already have access to health insurance so they do not become a "public charge".

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The injunction puts the policy on hold while a lawsuit over the police advances.

Roughly 380,000 more applicants seeking legal immigration status would have been reviewed under the new rule, according to the government's own analysis.

"The Rule is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification", he wrote in his ruling. They are a blow to one of Trump's most aggressive measures yet to cut legal immigration and make it based more on employment skills than family ties. Guidelines in use since 1999 refer to a "public charge" as someone primarily dependent on cash assistance, income maintenance or government support. And the definition has been broadened to include Medicaid, housing assistance and food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Immigration officials will consider an immigrant's age, health, education, and wealth to see if they are at risk of becoming a "public charge".

The administration had argued that US law has long discouraged admitting immigrants who were likely to end up draining resources by becoming a "public charge". The original sonnet reads, "Give me your exhausted, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free". Other U.S. judges issued similar injunctions elsewhere on Friday, including the Eastern District of Washington and the Northern District of California. Under that new rule, asylum seekers must claim asylum in one of the first countries they enter.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in Oakland, California, ruled in favor of California, Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.

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