Herring wins injunction blocking Trump/Cuccinelli ‘legal charge’ rules
Attorney General Mark Herring has won an injunction blocking President Donald Trump and acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli’s overhaul of the so-called “public charge” rules.
Herring co-led the lawsuit challenging this latest attack on legal immigration. Under the proposed rule an immigrant who is legally in the country could have had their legal status revoked, or even be deported, if he or she uses utilizes certain forms of assistance, such as food assistance to feed their U.S. citizen children, or housing assistance, even for a short time.
“Today’s decision sends a message of hope to immigrant communities around our country that the President’s continued attacks against them will not work,” said Herring. “President Trump and Acting Director Cuccinelli have made it abundantly clear that the only immigrants they want are wealthy and white. This is un-American in every sense. Immigrants have made our country and our Commonwealth what they are today and I remain as committed as ever to protecting them and their communities.”
The new rule would also expand the Trump Administration’s ability to deny visa renewal or green cards to anyone they think could possibly use a broad range of short-term benefits at some point in the future, without any clear formula for making that determination.
The Trump Administration’s overhaul could have exposed thousands of lawful immigrants and green card holders to deportation, and forced them to make an inhumane choice of whether to protect their lawful immigration status or risk it by accessing healthcare, food, or housing assistance for which they are already eligible. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security admitted that that the rule would “deter legally present visa holders from using important assistance programs.”
In their lawsuit filed in August, a coalition of 13 states, led by Herring and Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, alleged that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) violated federal immigration statutes, the Welfare Reform Act and the Administrative Procedure Act when it unlawfully expanded the definition of “public charge”.
In the lawsuit, the attorneys general wrote that the Trump Administration’s rule is “a radical overhaul of federal immigration law from a system that promotes economic mobility among immigrants to one that advantages immigrants with wealth.”
So-called “public charge” rules have existed in immigration law for several decades, but under long-standing law and policies, a public charge has had a very narrow, specific definition: an individual whose very survival depends upon one specific public benefit ― cash assistance ― or who is institutionalized for long-term care at government expense. The definition of “public charge” has not included temporary assistance, such as food or housing assistance or health care temporary.
Under the new rule, a public charge now would include lawfully present individuals or families who will use a broad range of federal assistance for housing, food or health care at any time in the future, for as short as four months. Consequently, many visa holders and green card applicants will and have already begun to refrain from seeking assistance for themselves or their families because it could make them ineligible to renew their legal immigration status or become a permanent resident, exposing them to deportation.
The rule also expands immigration officials’ ability to deny visas and green cards to any individual who they predict may use these types of assistance in the future. And if a current green card holder leaves the country 180 days they could also be labeled a public charge upon return and lose their lawful status.
As a consequence of the new rule, fewer families and children would receive services they need, including food, health care and housing. Many children would go without adequate meals, vaccines or shelter, and more families would suffer homelessness.
Hundreds of thousands of individuals would lose health care for themselves and their families. Many of these people would go to the emergency room for routine medical care, requiring states to cover the vastly more expensive medical costs.
Additionally, women could lose routine reproductive care services, resulting in more unintended pregnancies, more high-risk deliveries and increased costs for newborns whose health is compromised by the lack of adequate pre-natal care.
The attorneys general asserted that the rule violated the Immigration and Naturalization Act by redefining “public charge” in a way unconnected to its original meaning and Congress’ intent.
The lawsuit also asserted that the penalty that the rule creates for immigrants who use benefits for which they are legally entitled contradicts Congress’ intent and violates the Welfare Reform Act.
The attorneys general also asserted that DHS violated the Administrative Procedure Act in numerous ways, including by reversing a decades-old, consistent policy without reasoned analysis and offering an explanation for the rule that runs counter to the evidence before the agency.
Joining Virginia in the multistate lawsuit against DHS are Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Washington.