3 Federal Courts Issue Injunctions Against Trump Administration’s final “Public Charge” Rule

Federal Courts Issue Injunctions Against “Public Charge”
Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

U.S. immigration policy since Donald Trump became President in January 2017 has generally followed a consistent path – the Trump administration will issue a controversial anti-immigration policy, litigation will be filed against the policy, and no one knows for certain if the policy will take effect until the litigation is resolved.  Such is the case concerning the Trump administration’s final “public charge” rule, announced in August and due to take effect on October 15. However, on October 11, 3 Federal courts issued injunctions against the Trump administration’s final “public charge” rule.

The Trump administration’s final “public charge” rule would amend U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations concerning how DHS determines whether an immigrant is inadmissible to the United States based on his or her likelihood of becoming a “public charge” at any time in the future.  Under the rule, DHS would now consider more kinds of “public benefits” received as relevant in determining “public charge” status; specifically, the term, “public benefits”, would include any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs.  In addition, under the rule, DHS would now define the term, “public charge”, to mean an individual who receives one or more designated “public benefits” for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period (with receipt of 2 “public benefits” in one month counting as 2 months). The bottom-line of the rule is that it would materially reduce legal immigration (green cards) in the United States by persons who are poor and/or receive government benefits both as the government applies the terms of the rule and as such persons are even discouraged from attempting to immigrate to the United States because of the rule.   

In the case of State of New York v. United States Department of Homeland Security, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177323 (S.D.N.Y. 2019), Judge George Daniels, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, issued a “nationwide” preliminary injunction against, and stay of the effective date of, the Trump administration’s final “public charge” rule.  Judge Daniels stated, “No ordinary or legal dictionary definition of ‘public charge’ references Defendants’ proposed meaning of that term. As such, Plaintiffs raise a compelling argument that Defendants lack the authority to redefine ‘public charge’ as they have. . . . Nor is there any evidence that Congress intended for a redefinition of ‘public charge,’ and certainly not in the manner set forth in the Rule. . . . [T]he absence of any Congressional intent to redefine public charge also counsels in favor of a preliminary injunction. . . . Here, Defendants fail to provide any reasonable explanation for changing the definition of ‘public charge’ or the framework for evaluating whether a noncitizen is likely to become a public charge. . . . In short, Defendants do not articulate why they are changing the public charge definition, why this new definition is needed now, or why the definition set forth in the Rule – which has absolutely no support in the history of U.S. immigration law – is reasonable. 

The Rule is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification. It is repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility. . . . Overnight, the Rule will expose individuals to economic insecurity, health instability, denial of their path to citizenship, and potential deportation – none of which is the result of any conduct by those such injuries will affect. 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. It is impossible to argue that there is no irreparable harm for these individuals, Plaintiffs, and the public at large. . . . Accordingly, because Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits and to suffer irreparable harm absent preliminary relief, and the balance of hardships and public interest tip in their favor, Plaintiffs are entitled to a preliminary injunction. . . . As to the scope of the relief, a nationwide injunction is necessary”.

In addition, in the case of City and County of San Francisco v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177379 (N.D. Cal. 2019), Judge Phyllis Hamilton, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, issued a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s final “public charge” rule (with respect to “any person residing . . . in San Francisco City or County, Santa Clara County, California, Oregon, the District of Columbia, Maine, or Pennsylvania, or to anyone who is part of a household . . . that includes such a person”), and in the case of State of Washington v. United States Department of Homeland Security, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 178854 (E.D. Wash. 2019), Judge Rosanna Peterson, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, issued a “universal” preliminary injunction against, and stay of, the Trump administration’s final “public charge” rule.  

The above-cited 3 cases show how litigation can be effective to block the anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration.  To “win” in litigation, immigrants need to hire an attorney, such as the Kameli Law, which has had years of experience and success in immigration litigation.  If you need help with any immigration matter, please contact Kameli Law, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000, for assistance.

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