Trump Rule Aimed at Poor Migrants Draws Suit in California

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(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration faces a legal challenge over a new rule that could block immigrants from getting green cards if they use government benefits or are found likely to use them.

San Francisco and Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara County said in a complaint filed Tuesday that the so-called public charge rule is unlawful because it conflicts with existing immigration laws and would hinder municipalities’ efforts to help needy residents.

The rule, set to take effect in October, replaces a current policy that says immigrants shouldn’t receive more than half their income from cash benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income from Social Security.

Under the new more expansive definition, immigrants aren’t supposed to use public benefits like Medicaid, public housing assistance, or food stamps for more than 12 months over a 36 month period. If they do, they risk being categorized as too reliant on government services.

The two California counties say in their suit that the rule will “dramatically” increase the number of immigrants denied admission to the country.

“By design, it will also coerce thousands of immigrants and their family members to forgo or disenroll from critical federally funded, county-administered programs -- even benefits not technically covered by the Final Rule -- to reduce the risk that they or their family members will be denied admission or permanent residency.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli announced the new regulation Monday. It probably will fall hardest on low-income legal immigrants who
perform much of the country’s menial labor on farms and in the service industry.

Asked Tuesday on National Public Radio whether the new policy conforms to the “huddled masses” poem that adorns the Statue of Liberty, Cuccinelli suggested a revision: “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

The immigration agency declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The case is City and County of San Francisco v. Department of Homeland Security, 3:19-cv-4717, U.S. District Court, Northern District (San Francisco).

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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