Pa. among states su­ing to block Trump from pe­nal­iz­ing le­gal im­mi­grants

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Jeff Gam­mage

More than a dozen states, in­clud­ing Penn­syl­va­nia and New Jersey, have filed suit to stop the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion from en­forc­ing a new rule that could re­strict the num­ber of le­gal im­mi­grants who live in or en­ter the United States by pe­nal­iz­ing those who get help from pub­lic as­sis­tance pro­grams.

The new, broader reg­u­la­tion ex­pands the list of pro­grams, such as Med­i­caid and food stamps, through which re­cip­i­ents could be de­clared a “pub­lic charge.”

The Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Law Cen­ter and sev­eral other ad­vo­cacy groups also have lodged law­suits.

Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro called the rule “a bla­tant attack on low-in­come im­mi­grants who are here legally, con­tribut­ing to our so­ci­ety, and stand­ing on their own two feet — the ex­act peo­ple who are wel­comed to our na­tion by the Emma Lazarus poem em­bla­zoned on the Statue of Lib­erty.”

The Demo­crat joined a coali­tion of at­tor­neys gen­eral who are chal­leng­ing the rule in U.S. Dis­trict Court for the North­ern Dis­trict of Cal­i­for­nia. They al­lege that it tar­gets work­ing, le­gal im­mi­grants and their fam­i­lies by cre­at­ing un­nec­es­sary new bar­ri­ers to law­ful ad­mis­sion to the U.S.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion says the new rule, to take ef­fect in Oc­to­ber, pro­motes self-suf­fi­ciency and per­se­ver­ance among mi­grants.

U.S. Ci­ti­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices act­ing Direc­tor Ken Cuc­cinelli said that “self­suf­fi­ciency has been a core tenet of the Amer­i­can dream” and “self-re­liance, in­dus­tri­ous­ness and per­se­ver­ance laid the foun­da­tion of our na­tion and have de­fined gen­er­a­tions of hard­work­ing im­mi­grants seek­ing op­por­tu­nity in the United States.”

For more than a cen­tury, dat­ing back to the rule’s out­lines in the 1882 Im­mi­gra­tion Act, im­mi­grants seek­ing to en­ter or live in this coun­try have had to prove they will not be­come what is called a “pub­lic charge.” In the 1990s, the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued guide­lines that took only cash ben­e­fits into ac­count when de­ter­min­ing whether an im­mi­grant con­sti­tuted a pub­lic charge.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has sought to dra­mat­i­cally ex­pand the con­di­tions of that test, say­ing the move would save Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers mil­lions of dol­lars a year.

The new rule de­fines “pub­lic charge” as any­one who re­ceives one or more pub­lic ben­e­fits for more than 12 months, in the ag­gre­gate, within any 36-month pe­riod.

Peo­ple ap­ply­ing for visas to en­ter the coun­try or for green cards that per­mit le­gal per­ma­nent res­i­dency could be de­nied if they are deemed likely to rely on gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance. Ac­cept­ing those kinds of ben­e­fits now or in the past would be a heav­ily weighted neg­a­tive fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing whether they rep­re­sent a pub­lic charge.

On Tues­day, four more gov­ern­ments — New York State, New York City, Con­necti­cut and Ver­mont — filed suit in fed­eral court in Man­hat­tan.

New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Leti­tia James, a Demo­crat, said the new rule flies in the face of en­dur­ing Amer­i­can val­ues and a cen­tury of case law.

“Gen­er­a­tions of cit­i­zens landed on the wel­com­ing shores of El­lis Is­land with noth­ing more than a dream in their pock­ets,” she said in a state­ment an­nounc­ing the law­suit. “The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s thinly veiled ef­forts to only al­low those who meet their nar­row eth­nic, racial and eco­nomic cri­te­ria to en­ter our na­tion is a clear vi­o­la­tion of our laws and our val­ues.”

The rule ef­fects those who seek ad­mis­sion to the U.S., an ex­ten­sion or change of visa sta­tus, or law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dency. And it ap­plies to the use of fed­eral pro­grams in­clud­ing Med­i­caid, which is called Med­i­cal As­sis­tance in Penn­syl­va­nia; the Sup­ple­men­tal Nutri­tion As­sis­tance Pro­gram, known as SNAP; the Sec­tion 8 Hous­ing Choice Voucher Pro­gram; the Sec­tion 8 Project-Based Rental As­sis­tance; and the use of Sec­tion 9 Pub­lic Hous­ing.

U.S. Ci­ti­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices notes that ac­cep­tance of Tem­po­rary As­sis­tance for Needy Fam­i­lies cash as­sis­tance and state and lo­cal cash as­sis­tance pro­grams can lead to a per­son be­ing des­ig­nated as a pub­lic charge.

In Penn­syl­va­nia, about 175,600 im­mi­grants re­ceive Med­i­cal As­sis­tance and nearly 80,000 re­ceive SNAP, ac­cord­ing to the at­tor­ney gen­eral.

“If al­lowed to take ef­fect,” Shapiro said, “the rule could cause tens of thousands of Penn­syl­va­nia fam­i­lies to forego health in­sur­ance and ba­sic nutri­tion. It will also make it harder for hard-work­ing, low- and mod­er­ate-in­come im­mi­grants to be ad­mit­ted into the United States or get green cards.”

PA­TRICK SEMANSKY/AP

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s new rule, to take ef­fect in Oc­to­ber, could re­strict the num­ber of le­gal im­mi­grants who live in or en­ter the United States. The ad­min­is­tra­tion says the rule pro­motes self-suf­fi­ciency and per­se­ver­ance among mi­grants.

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