“Public Charge” Rule Blocked Days Before Going Into Effect

The Trump administration suffered another immigration blow in court last Friday. The new “public charge” rule set to go into effect Tuesday, October 15, was blocked in three separate rulings by judges around the country.

Courts in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle all issued rulings halting the implementation of the rule. This was largely seen as one of the Trump administration’s most significant attacks on legal immigration.

In New York, federal judge George B. Daniels called the public charge rule “a new agency policy of exclusion in search of justification” and “repugnant to the American Dream.”

He condemned the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for failing to provide “any reasonable explanation” for changing the definition of public charge and issued a nationwide injunction blocking the policy.

Since 1882, federal law has banned immigrants likely to become a “public charge” from immigrating to the United States. Although Congress has never defined the term, for generations the government interpreted the term to mean someone who is “primarily dependent” on public financial support.

Since 1999, only those individuals who received more than 50% of their income from federal cash assistance programs were determined to be a public charge.

But in 2018, the Trump administration proposed a broad redefinition of public charge which would find that someone was a public charge for receiving non-cash supplemental benefits like Medicaid or food stamps. The administration declared that these rules were needed to promote immigrant “self-sufficiency.”

In final regulations issued in August, the Trump administration declared that any individual who received any amount of certain benefits for “an aggregate of 12 months in a 36 month period” would be deemed a public charge. Under this new test, even disabled immigrants who relied on Medicaid to get a job and work would be declared public charges.

Within hours of Judge Daniel’s ruling, a second federal judge in San Francisco also issued an order blocking the public charge rule. In her order, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton criticized DHS for departing from the long-accepted definition of “public charge” and for refusing to calculate the rule’s potential impacts on public health.

By Aaron Reichlin-Melnick for IMMIGRATION IMPACT
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