Denial of green cards to immigrants using food stamps rejected

Chicago court’s ruling striking down new Trump rule applies nationwide.

A federal judge in Chicago has struck down a new Trump administration rule that aimed to deny green cards to immigrants utilizing food stamps and other public benefits

The election eve decision by District Judge Gary Feinerman applies nationwide, not just in the state of Illinois, NPR reported.

The Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, as well as Cook County, filed suit in September 2019 for blocking the rule, but the rule was placed into effect last January by the US Supreme Court.

However, Feinerman said the rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the process that federal agencies use to develop and issue regulations.

The policy attempted to deny an immigrant’s green card application if they were found to be accessing programs such as food stamps or other health or housing benefits, according to court documents.

Those applicants would have been considered a public charge under the Trump Administration’s new rule.

READ: Federal judge in New York blocks the public charge rule (October 11, 2019)

The ICIRR and Cook County argued that the term public charge, an individual deemed a burden or dependent on the country, is ambiguous and requires “a degree of dependence” beyond temporary assistance, court documents said.

The Trump Administration claimed the rule would filter out applicants unable to remain self-sufficient while in the US.

Immigrant rights advocates cited by AP deemed the new rule a “wealth test,” while public health experts said the rule forced individuals to choose between their health and an opportunity to stay in the US.

Cook County also argued that the rule led to immigrants relying on expensive emergency care over preventative care, it said.

READ: Which Public Benefits can constitute Public Charge for green card applicants (August 19, 2019)

“As we all continue to be impacted by covid-19, it is vital that no one is fearful of accessing health care,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement.

“The court’s decision to block enforcement of the Public Charge Rule re-opens doors for immigrants to access vital services like health care.”

Fred Tsao, senior policy counsel for ICIRR, called the rule an “attack” on legal immigration and criticized the way the Trump administration has instituted policies.

“We may or may not get a new administration,” he was quoted as saying. “If we do, we’d like to see a lot of this damage undone and hopefully some legislative changes that will actually benefit immigrants instead of scaring them away.”

READ: New Public Charge rule likely to cause further delays in green cards for Indians (August 15, 2019)

The US Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 vote in January that the rule could take effect, but enforcement was halted by a federal judge in New York because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But by September, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals had reversed that hold and the rule took effect nationwide.

US Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) ceased applying the rule to pending applications and petitions after the ruling in Chicago.

“USCIS will fully comply with the decision and issue additional forthcoming guidance while the agency reviews the decision,” agency spokesman Dan Hetlage stated Monday.

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