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LAS, Immigrant Rights Groups in Court to Halt Public Charge Rule

Immigrant rights groups appeared in the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York this week for oral arguments on Make the Road New York v Cuccinelli – litigation brought last month challenging the Trump administration’s unilateral and unconstitutional changes to “public charge.”

Attorneys from The Legal Aid Society, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP petitioned the court to grant a preliminary injunction before the proposed changes to “public charge” take effect on October 15, 2019. They argued that this dramatic change should be halted until the lawfulness of the proposed rule is determined.

The proposed rule would redefine the way the term “public charge” has been understood for more than a century, namely as a category of people who are institutionalized or otherwise completely dependent upon public assistance. In stark contrast, the rule proposed by the Trump administration—and opposed by the great majority of the 266,000 individuals, advocacy groups, and local governments who opposed it during the public comment period—would define as a public charge anyone the immigration service deems likely to receive, even temporarily, any amount, however minimal, of a wide range of cash and non-cash benefits, including Federal Medicaid or housing assistance. Those deemed a public charge would be denied permanent immigration status.

“This unlawful rule upends family-based immigration, which has been the hallmark of our nation’s immigration policy for decades. It goes against our nation’s fundamental values and seeks to punish hard-working immigrants, sending them the message that if they are not wealthy they are not welcome, said Susan Welber, Staff Attorney in the Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “Today, we stood before the court to underscore the critical need to protect our plaintiffs and immigrant family clients from harm by stopping the Rule from taking effect on October 15.”