NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — Immigrant rights advocates in New York have filed the first United States federal lawsuit seeking to jointly block three interrelated “Public Charge” rules promulgated by the Trump administration against Caribbean and other immigrants.
The advocates said these rules seek, “independently and together, to wholly transform the United States’ longstanding family-based immigration system, which allows all immigrants to seek a new and better life in the United States, regardless of their means”.
The lawsuit challenges the legality of the following three rules: The US Department of State (DOS) January 3, 2018 changes to the public charge provisions of its Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) governing consular processing, which led to a 12-fold increase in visa denials, largely against nonwhite immigrants; and the DOS October 11, 2019 Interim Final Rule, which changes the public charge regulations that pertain at the point of consular processing and would require DOS to apply the same enjoined the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “public charge” criteria to Caribbean and other immigrants who must undergo consular processing before entering the US to unify with their parents, children and spouses.
The other rule is the “Presidential Proclamation Suspending the Entry of Immigrants Who Will Financially Burden the Health Care System,” issued on October 4, 2019, which would bar entry to any immigrant who cannot demonstrate the ability to obtain certain types of private health insurance within 30 days of arrival.
“The Trump administration aims to transform immigration in the US from a system that prioritises keeping families together to a privilege for the wealthy,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Attorney Ghita Schwarz.
“Unsurprisingly, like so many other Trump policies, these immigration rules harm people of colour the most. The courts should not allow the administration to circumvent numerous court injunctions, based on determinations that the public charge criteria are likely unlawful and unconstitutional, simply by applying that criteria via different agencies,” she added.
The immigration advocates said the State Department rules closely track the changes made to “public charge” determinations under the blocked US Department of Homeland Security rule, redefining a public charge from those who are predominantly reliant on government aid for subsistence to include anyone who is likely to use any amount, at any time in the future – even long after becoming a US citizen – of various cash and non-cash benefits, including Medicaid, food stamps and federal housing subsidies.
The rules, challenged on December 19, apply to Caribbean and other immigrants who must undergo consular processing, including immigrants who must temporarily leave the US in order to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.
Although immigrants obtaining their green card from within the US are not subjected to the DHS rule because it is enjoined, the advocates said intending immigrants seeking immigrant visas through consular processing are threatened by nearly identical provisions via the State Department rule.