Judge George Daniels issued a nationwide injunction blocking a proposed Trump administration rule to prevent immigrants from getting green cards if they were expected to depend on public assistance.
A federal judge on Friday blocked a Trump administration regulation that permits immigration officials to deny green cards to immigrants who receive certain public benefits.
The ruling will prevent the so-called public charge regulation from taking effect as scheduled on Oct. 15. Under the measure, immigrants will be scrutinized for their use of food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, and housing assistance — or the likelihood they might use such benefits in the future.
In a 24-page order, Manhattan-based Judge George Daniels said the Trump administration likely exceeded its authority when it expanded the guidelines for determining who should be labeled a public charge.
“In short, defendants do not articulate why they are changing the public charge definition, why this new definition is needed now, or why the definition set forth in the rule — which has absolutely no support in the history of U.S. immigration law — is reasonable,” he wrote. “The rule is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification.”
The ruling deals a blow to Trump’s attempt to rework the legal immigration system to exclude poorer immigrants and increase skill-based admissions. White House senior adviser Stephen Miller considers the regulation a top priority and lambasted Trump officials last year for not moving fast enough.
Critics argue the public charge regulation will discourage immigrants and their family members from accessing food and health care, even in cases when they’re entitled to receive it. Local health providers said last year that they saw enrollment drop in a federal nutrition program for pregnant people and children following the release of a draft version of the measure.
Shortly after the ruling in New York on Friday, a second judge in California issued a decision that blocked the policy in that state as well as Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.
Oakland-based U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton said in a 93-page orderthat the public charge regulation would “upend“ operations by states and local governments to provide services to immigrants. She added that the plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated that they will lose federal funding as a result of people halting Medicaid enrollment.
However, Hamilton, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, stopped short of granting a second nationwide injunction. Instead, she temporarily blocked the policy in the plaintiff states.
“Plaintiffs have certainly demonstrated that confusion about the nation’s immigration policies is a cause of disenrollment, even for those who will not be subject to the public charge assessment,” she wrote. “However, plaintiffs have not demonstrated the marginal effect a nationwide injunction would have on curing that confusion for their residents over and above an injunction limited to their own borders.“
The New York ruling will keep the policy blocked nationwide, at least temporarily. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but likely will appeal the decision.
Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli argued in a written statement Friday that the regulation ultimately would be upheld.
“Long-standing federal law requires aliens to rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their families, sponsors, and private organizations in their communities to succeed,” he said. “An objective judiciary will see that this rule lies squarely within long-held existing law.”
In issuing the nationwide block, Daniels, another Clinton appointee, said plaintiffs in a pair of related cases likely would suffer “irreparable harm” if the regulation was allowed to go forward.
The first lawsuit was brought by the states of New York, Connecticut, Vermont, as well as the city of New York. The second lawsuit was brought by New York-based advocacy groups and service providers.
New York State Attorney General Tish James lauded the decision in a tweet Friday.
“This rule would have had devastating impacts on New Yorkers and our nation,“ she wrote, “and today’s decision is a critical step in our efforts to uphold the rule of law.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a written statement the California ruling “stops the Trump administration’s heartless attempt to weaponize essential health care, housing, and nutrition programs.”