‘I’ve litigated against federal and state agencies over the years and I’ve never seen anything like this…’
(Liberty Headlines) The scene is playing out in courtrooms from coast to coast—federal judges being asked to block a new Trump administration policy scheduled to take effect next week that would deny legal permanent residency to many immigrants over the use of public benefits.
Almost a dozen lawsuits have been filed from New York to California with plaintiffs including states, counties, cities, service providers and immigrants to prevent the “public charge” rule from taking effect on Oct. 15.
A judge in California held a hearing last week, while a judge in New York held one on Monday, and others are scheduled for this week, with the lawsuits asking for preliminary injunctions to keep the rule from being enforced while challenges to its legality are ongoing. Judges have indicated a willingness to issue rulings before the scheduled start date.
Left-wing activist judges being used to block executive actions are part of the new ‘normal’ for the Trump era—and at tremendous cost to taxpayers who must cover their legal defense.
Many have been overturned at the Supreme Court level if not sooner, but the suits keep coming in the hopes that their sheer bulk will overwhelm the Justice Department and force the administration to abandon its efforts.
“I’ve litigated against federal and state agencies over the years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Liz Schott of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which has been tracking the progress of the various lawsuits. “It’s a tremendously broad set of players reflecting the huge significance and impact of the rule.”
As Attorney General William Barr and others have noted, the expanding role that activist judges have foisted upon themselves has potentially chilling effects for the legislative process, undermining the president’s ability to negotiate with Congress and ultimately weakening the force of laws when a single judge with a partisan agenda can delay or block the enforcement of them.
Trump has pursued an array of avenues for keeping in check the escalating illegal immigration crisis with no legislative support from Congress. His public charge policy sought to extend the scope of a longstanding rule intended to prevent those seeking U.S. citizenship from becoming a drain on taxpayer coffers.
Currently, legal immigrants seeking to become permanent residents (a step before being eligible to become naturalized citizens) must prove they won’t be burdens to the country, or public charges, which in practice has been understood to mean becoming primarily dependent on cash assistance, income maintenance or government support for long-term institutionalization.
The Trump administration’s rule takes that further—considering past and current use of a wide range of assistance like Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers that aren’t currently considered.
The policy also would take into account factors like the immigrant’s age, employment status and English-language ability to determine whether they could potentially become public burdens at any point in the future and denying them legal residency if officials decide the answer is yes.
Opponents complained that the rule changes are discriminatory and would have the effect of barring immigrants with lower incomes in favor of those with wealth. The government has said the rule changes would ensure that those gaining legal residency status are self-sufficient.
The scheduled enactment next week of the rule comes as the Trump administration on Friday announced another rule, effective Nov. 3 that bars immigrants from coming to the U.S. unless they will be covered by health insurance within 30 days of entering or have the financial wherewithal to pay for any medical costs.
In a packed Manhattan courtroom on Monday, U.S. District Judge George Daniels extensively questioned the government’s lawyer, Ethan Davis of the Department of Justice, over the rationale behind the administration’s changing of the rule and the adding of factors that would be considered in determining whether someone could become a public charge.
“You’ve got to give me some rational basis,” he said.
Roughly 544,000 people apply for green cards annually. According to the government, 382,000 are in categories that would make them subject to the new review, according to the government.
A report last year by the Center for Immigration Studies found that non-citizens were nearly twice as likely as U.S. citizens to collect welfare benefits once residing in the U.S.
For Medicaid, non-citizen immigrants comprise 6.5% of all participants, and for food assistance, immigrants are 8.8% of recipients, according to Associated Press data.
However, there is no definite count in certain cases since many households include both citizens and non-citizen, such as families where children were born in the U.S. to illegal parents.
Adapted from previous reporting by the Associated Press