The Trump administration experienced another legal blow when Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of New York (SDNY) issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking a newly-expanded Public Charge rule from taking effect on October 15.
Previously, the Public Charge rule was a long-standing guideline used by immigration officers to evaluate whether an immigrant would come to the United States and rely on government-paid cash aid for long periods of time, or for life, thus becoming a “public charge.”
If immigration officers determined an immigrant would be a public charge, the immigrant would be denied permanent residency status, or a Green Card.
However, White House advisor Stephen Miller recently revised and expanded the rule to include any immigrant who might need to use public services such as Medi-Cal and Food Stamps, even for a short period of time.
An immigrant’s age, health, education level, and credit score would also be evaluated, and if an immigrant couldn’t speak English, it would count against them.
However, Daniels blocked the new rule nationwide, saying it was a “new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification.”
“It is repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility,” Daniel wrote in his ruling. “Immigrants have always come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their posterity. With or without help, most succeed.”
This attempt to change the rule also ignores the fact most people with visas and undocumented immigrants are ineligible for public benefits; and those with visas must live in the U.S. for at least five years to qualify for any benefits at all.
Miller and the Trump administration have been attempting to limit legal immigration, move immigration approvals away from the poor and lean towards a “merit-based” system which would approve only wealthier, well-educated immigrants.
“This racially-motivated ‘wealth test’ rigs the rules against immigrants and their families who are on the pathway to a green card,” said the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) on its website. “Families should continue to use the services for which you are eligible without fear.”
Daniels strongly rejected the new Public Charge in his ruling, but the legal battles will continue for both sides of this issue as long as Stephen Miller advises the president, and in the meantime, there is no way of knowing how many people have been scared off from using the benefits they qualify for.
“The [Public Charge rule] needs to be abolished,” said Christopher Richardson in the Washington Post. “Immigrants already go through a rigorous screening process that checks their criminal, security and medical backgrounds. The government has at its disposal law enforcement databases, biometric screenings, and complex, risk-based algorithms to investigate the lives of these immigrant applicants. These applicants spend thousands of dollars in attorney and filing fees. They must embarrass themselves by answering a range of questions about their sex lives, their family past and social media use in front of immigration officers. The process of obtaining a green card can take years even without the public-charge rule as a factor.”