New York Attorney General Sues Trump Administration Over Immigration Rule


New York Attorney General Sues Trump Administration Over Immigration Rule

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a lawsuit Aug. 20 challenging the federal government's new rule that will deny visas and green cards for immigrants who use certain public assistance.

Under the new rule, immigrants who are lawfully present in the U.S. may be blocked from obtaining green cards if they use certain government benefits, such as Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers. In addition, those trying to immigrate into the United States will be denied entry if they can't convincingly show that they will never use public-assistance programs.

"Public charge" is defined as a person who receives one or more of the designated public benefits for more than 12 months in any 36-month period. The months are measured in the aggregate, so a person who receives two benefits in one month will be deemed to have received two months of benefits.  

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said the rule will encourage "self-reliance, industriousness and perseverance."

James, however, said that under this rule "more children will go hungry, more families will go without medical care and more people will be living in the shadows and on the streets."

The Legal Challenge

The lawsuit argues that the administration's new public charge definition runs afoul of congressional intent and longstanding case law, which has held that immigrants who use basic, noncash benefits are not considered public charges. The plaintiffs allege that the rule "weaponizes the public charge inquiry to specifically target immigrants of color, immigrants with disabilities, and low-income immigrants." Furthermore, the lawsuit claims, the rule "fundamentally misunderstands" that noncash programs aim to help immigrants with limited resources to achieve upward mobility.

(New York Attorney General's Office)

Connecticut and Vermont Join Lawsuit

Attorneys General William Tong of Connecticut and Thomas Donovan of Vermont joined James in the lawsuit. Together, they claim that President Donald Trump's administration is attempting "to reduce the population of permanent residents of color in the United States." 

(NBC News)

Mixed Reactions

A host of Democratic leaders at the federal, state and local level have made statements in support of the lawsuit. "The Trump administration's final proposed changes to the public-charge rule are unacceptable," said New York State Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa (D-Northern Manhattan). New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said, "This rule goes against our city's policies with regard to healthcare, housing and nutrition." 

But one immigration law expert said the outcry is exaggerated. Since the 1800s, the federal government has excluded any immigrant seeking admission to the U.S. who was found to be "unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge," noted Nolan Rappaport in an opinion piece. The Trump administration's new rule amends the existing public charge regulations to include an immigrant's reliance on the most common forms of public assistance, which previously were not considered in making a public charge determination. "The presence of a single positive or negative factor, however, is never dispositive," Rappaport said. "The determination must be based on the totality of the circumstances."

(New York Attorney General's Office) and (The Hill)

Merit-Based Immigration Proposed

The Trump administration has focused on merit-based immigration in a proposal that could make permanent residency available to more foreign national workers. The plan provides opportunities for immigrants who have specific skills or current job offers in the U.S., with the requirement that they can demonstrate English proficiency and pass a civics exam. Trump said the proposal will create a "fair, lawful and modern immigration system" and the new system "protects American wages, protects American values, and attracts and best and brightest" immigrants. 

(SHRM Online)

Visit SHRM's resource page on workplace immigration


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