Published: Sat, October 12, 2019
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United States judge blocks Trump rule limiting green cards for poor immigrants

United States judge blocks Trump rule limiting green cards for poor immigrants

A federal judge on Friday blocked a sweeping regulation that would've made it easier for the Trump administration to reject green card and visa applications filed by low-income immigrants whom the government determines are or might become a burden on USA taxpayers.

Multiple lawsuits from states and from immigrants nationwide were in progress when Judge George B. Daniels of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of NY made his ruling on Friday.

In his ruling, Daniels said Trump was redefining immigration rules that had stood since the late 1800s with a new framework that had "no logic".

"The Rule is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification", Daniels wrote as he granted the request. "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 meant to aid them in becoming contributing members of society".

"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 histroy of U.S. Immigration law - is reasonable", Daniels said, calling the rule "repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility".

A U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas ruled that Trump violated the law when he declared a national emergency in order to build a border wall separating the U.S. from Mexico. Advocates say the rule changes are discriminatory because they would deny legal residency and visas to immigrants who don't have money.

First unveiled in August, the controversial proposal would have given the Trump administration wider discretion in determining which legal immigrants should be awarded green cards and visas.

In California, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled that Trump administration officials "acted arbitrarily and capriciously during the legally-required process to implement the changes they propose" in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Among low-income immigrant families, the figure was more than one in five, according to the study, which was based on a December 2018 survey of almost 2,000 non-elderly adults who are foreign born or live with at least one foreign-born family member. Previously it applied to immigrants who would be primarily dependent on the government. The United States has long maintained rules blocking entry to immigrants on public charge grounds. If someone uses two benefits, that is counted as two months.

Under the new regulation, caseworkers would consider enrollment in the widely used Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), certain federally funded Medicaid benefits and a variety of forms of government-subsidized housing, including the popular Section 8 vouchers.

Critics have said the rule will disproportionately affect low-income immigrants of color and punish them for being poor. They consider it a betrayal of Emma Lazarus' words on the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your exhausted, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free".

For Medicaid, non-citizen immigrants are only 6.5% of participants, while more than 87% are native-born. The measure will be effective November 3.

Acting Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, speaks during a briefing at the White House, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, in Washington.

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