Federal judge blocks Trump 'public charge' rule


A federal judge in New York on Friday temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule linking immigrants’ legal status to their use of public benefits.

Judge George Daniels of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a temporary nationwide injunction stopping the administration from enforcing the requirements, as well as a stay of the effective date.

The rule was scheduled to take effect Oct. 15.

Under the rule, any immigrant who receives at least one designated public benefit— including Medicaid, food stamps, welfare or public housing vouchers — for more than 12 months within any three-year period will be considered a “public charge” and will be more likely to be denied a green card by immigration officials.

The rule would also examine the likelihood of an immigrant using such benefits in the future.

In his 24-page ruling, Daniels, a Clinton appointee, said the Trump administration likely exceeded its authority.

“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,” he wrote. “The rule is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification."

The public charge rule had been the target of nearly a dozen lawsuits in federal courts across the country. The ruling marks a defeat for the Trump administration, which has sought to overhaul the nation’s immigration system and limit legal immigration.

In his ruling, Daniels said the federal government did not give “any reasonable explanation” for changing the definition of a public charge.

“It is repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility,” Daniels wrote.

In a statement, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, said the rule merely enforces long-standing immigration law.

"An objective judiciary will see that this rule lies squarely within long-held existing law," Cuccinelli said. "The public charge regulation defines this law to ensure those seeking to come or stay in the U.S. can successfully support themselves financially and will not rely on public benefits as they seek opportunity here."

Experts said the rule would have a chilling effect even on people who aren’t directly affected, and could discourage permanent residents and even U.S. citizens from renewing or applying for benefits they are entitled to.

The final rule, which was announced in August, targets immigrants trying to enter the United States or those already living here who are trying to obtain a green card.

The rule explicitly would not apply to U.S. citizens, even if the citizen is related to an immigrant who would be subject to the requirements. It also would explicitly exempt immigrants who have been granted asylum, lawful permanent residents and refugees.

In a separate, more limited ruling Friday, a federal judge in California issued a preliminary injunction blocking the public charge rule from taking effect only in certain areas where the plaintiffs had filed lawsuits.

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