Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction Against DHS in Public Charge Case

Advancing Justice | AAJC, AALDEF, NWLC, and pro bono counsel Crowell & Moring, LLP respond to Court Decision
For Immediate Release
Contact
Michelle Boykins 202-296-2300, ext. 0144 mboykins@advancingjustice-aajc.org

Washington, D.C. – A federal judge halted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing its controversial “public charge” rule, a policy change that advocacy groups assert would have disproportionately blocked immigrants of color from obtaining permanent resident status and inhibited immigrant workers and foreign students from extending or changing their visa status.

U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of New York issued the order on October 11, just days before it was set to go into effect on October 15. In his 24-page opinion, Daniels wrote that the idea of making it more difficult for immigrants using public services to receive green cards is “repugnant to the American Dream.” His ruling was followed by similar rulings in cases in Washington and California.

The ruling, in State of New York, et al. v. Department of Homeland Security, et al., came after an amicus brief in support of the injunction was filed by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Advancing Justice | AAJC (Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC), and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), along with pro bono counsel Crowell & Moring. The amicus briefs said that the public charge rule is motivated by racial animus and targeted specific segments of the population — specifically immigrants, women, and children from communities of color. “The revision to the public charge rule appears to be another vehicle through which this Administration endeavors to effectuate its “‘wider strategic goal’ on immigration,” proffering a pretextual justification in order to veil its discriminatory intent” the groups wrote, i.e. it is a rule essentially designed to allow only the wealthy and/or white immigrants into this country. The original public charge test has its roots in xenophobia and racial bias, as it was enacted in the same era as the discriminatory and racially motivated Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which sought to keep Asian immigrants from coming to the U.S. Nonetheless, a “public charge” has been historically interpreted narrowly to those who were primarily dependent on the government.

The DHS rule would have dramatically changed the way the federal government evaluates whether an individual is considered to be a public charge and would have counted receipt of public benefits such as non-emergency Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), and subsidized housing against individuals as part of the immigration process. The rule also penalizes senior and low-income immigrants by imposing an unprecedented test that will consider factors such as age, English language proficiency, and access to private health insurance in assessing who may be “likely” to use public benefits.

The amicus brief filed by the advocacy organizations highlighted the racial animus that led to the public charge rule and the negative impacts its implementation would have on minority communities, specifically Asian American immigrants and women. The rule states that immigrants found to be relying on public benefits, or those likely to do so in the future, would be ineligible to become permanent residents or change or extend their nonimmigrant visa status in the U.S.

John C. Yang, president and executive director, Advancing Justice | AAJC:
”The court’s decision was welcomed news to so many in our community who have been concerned about this dramatic policy change. Our country should not be promoting immigration policies that permit discrimination and instead be focused on prioritizing accessible pathways to U.S. citizenship so immigrants can thrive.”

Annie J. Wang, Director of Immigrant Justice Project, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF):
AALDEF was heartened by the court’s decision, which found that the DHS failed to provide a rational basis for redefining the concept of public charge. We agree with Judge Daniels’ characterization of the DHS rule as “simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification."

Amy K. Matsui, Director of Income Security & Senior Counsel, National Women’s Law Center:
“NWLC is relieved that federal courts around the country have blocked this mean-spirited and discriminatory rule from taking effect.”

Emily T. Kuwahara, Partner, Crowell & Moring, LLP:
“The team is proud and humbled to be part of the effort to stop the implementation of this discriminatory rule. I thank AALDEF, Advancing Justice | AAJC and NWLC for leading the charge on these critical issues.”

Amicus briefs from these organizations were also filed in public charge cases, La Clínica de la Raza v. Trump (Northern District of California), State of California v. Department of Homeland Security (Northern District of California), and Make the Road New York v. Cuccinelli (Southern District of New York).

Pro bono counsel from Crowell & Moring included Emily KuwaharaAnne LiChristopher CadenaAustin Sutta, and Jared Levine.

Joining AALDEF, Advancing Justice | AAJC, and the National Women’s Law Center in filing the amicus brief were:

  • 9to5, National Association of Working Women
  • Anti-Defamation League
  • Apna Ghar, Inc.
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus (ALC)
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta
  • The Asian & Latino Solidarity Alliance of Central Virginia
  • The Asian Law Alliance
  • The Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center (APALRC)
  • Asian Pacific Community in Action (APCA)
  • Asian Pacific Development
  • The Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO)
  • The California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus
  • The Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice at UC Berkeley School of Law (CRRJ)
  • The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE)
  • Chinese-American Planning Council
  • The Coalition on Human Needs (CHN)
  • The Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights
  • The Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF)
  • EMBARC
  • End Rape on Campus (EROC)
  • Equal Rights Advocates (ERA)
  • The Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality (“Korematsu Center”)
  • Girls Inc.
  • GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
  • If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice
  • In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
  • In the Public Interest
  • The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)
  • KWH Law Center for Social Justice and Change
  • LatinoJustice PRLDEF
  • The MinKwon Center for Community
  • National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW)
  • The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
  • The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)
  • The National Coalition for Asian Pacific Americans Community Development (National CAPACD)
  • National Crittenton
  • The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC)
  • The National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project (“NIWAP Inc.”)
  • The National Partnership for Women & Families (National Partnership)
  • Oasis Legal Services
  • OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
  • The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice
  • OneAmerica
  • Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA)
  • Population Connection
  • The Reproductive Health Access Project
  • Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN)
  • Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)
  • Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
  • South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
  • Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
  • Transgender Law Center (TLC)
  • The Union for Reform Judaism
  • The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
  • The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY)
  • The Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Inc.
  • Women Lawyers On Guard Inc. (WLG)