Three States Sue Over Trump Administration's 'Public Charge' Rule

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed a joint lawsuit with Connecticut and Vermont’s respective attorneys general against the Trump administration’s attempt to limit pathways to citizenship for some legal immigrants.

James filed the lawsuit in the District Court for the Southern District of New York on August 20, according to a press release. The Trump administration’s proposed policy would change how the US government interprets the “public charge” rule to stop immigrants from obtaining green cards or visas if they use or have previously used government assistance programs.

The lawsuit states the proposed rule “would have short- and long-term impacts on public health and the economy” by making it harder to use public services like food stamps or Medicaid. The joint suit also argues that the rule change could negatively affect “immigrants of color” like those from Central America and Africa, which Trump had previously called “s—hole countries.”

“In so doing, the Final Rule implements this administration’s explicit animus against immigrants of color; it is the means by which immigrants from what this administration has described as ‘s—hole countries’ will be excluded to the benefit of white, wealthy Europeans,” the lawsuit reads. James also states that the proposed rule by the Trump administration,

“fundamentally misunderstands that these non-cash programs are designed to help immigrants who arrive in this country with limited means move out of poverty and achieve upward mobility.”

“Generations of citizens landed on the welcoming shores of Ellis Island with nothing more than a dream in their pockets,” James said in a statement. “The Trump administration’s thinly veiled efforts to only allow those who meet their narrow ethnic, racial, and economic criteria to gain a path to citizenship is a clear violation of our laws and our values. Quite simply, 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. We cannot and we will not let that happen.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in the statement that the “city of immigrants will never stop fighting President Trump’s xenophobic policies.”

“We are proud to join the Attorney General and let our immigrant brothers and sisters know New York stands united behind them,” de Blasio said. “When you mess with our neighbors, you mess with all of us. To the President, we’ll see you in court."

On August 14, thirteen other states filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for the change in the public charge rule. The lawsuit, co-led by Washington Attorney General Robert Ferguson (D) and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D), was also signed by the attorneys general from Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico and Rhode Island. The proposed rule is supposed to go into effect on October 15.

“The Trump administration’s message is clear: if you’re wealthy you’re welcome, if you’re poor, you’re not,” Attorney General Ferguson said in a statement.

“It forces families into an impossible choice — to sacrifice their dream of becoming Americans in order to provide health care, food, or a roof over their children’s heads, or let their families go without in order to remain in the country. This rule is un-American, anti-immigrant, and unlawful. I intend to stop it.”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, supports the lawsuit.

“Washington will always be a state that stands with immigrants and no action by the Trump administration, either through deeds or words, can change that,” Inslee said in a statement. “This latest attack on hard-working immigrant families, including those who already have visas or family members who are US-born, does not hold up our nation's ideals and harms communities throughout our state. I fully support this action by the Attorney General to stand against the devastating impacts of this xenophobic policy.”

In April, New York announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are no longer allowed to make arrests inside of courthouses without judicial warrants or orders. New York is the first state to implement the rule, The Times Union previously reported. The rule only applies to the inside of courthouses and would not impact the agency’s operations outside of them, as the agency is still allowed to make arrests nearby courthouses.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.