Attorney General Becerra Leads Coalition of Five Attorneys General, Files Suit Challenging Trump Administration Public Charge Rule

Friday, August 16, 2019
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Working families across the U.S. rely on safety net programs – if rule were applied to citizens across the country, a substantial portion would be considered likely a ‘public charge’  

California is home to over 10 million immigrants and half of all children in the state have an immigrant parent  

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a multistate coalition in challenging in court the Trump Administration’s Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule, known as the “Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Public Charge Rule.” The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claims the Rule targets working immigrants and their families by creating unnecessary new barriers to lawful admission to the United States. The Rule discourages hardworking eligible immigrants and their families from accessing critical health, nutrition, and housing programs that supplement their modest wages and help them make ends meet. The Rule creates such a strict standard that, if it were applied to citizens across the country, a substantial portion would be considered likely to be a ‘public charge’.  

“This cruel policy would force working parents and families across the nation to forego basic necessities like food, housing, and healthcare out of fear. That is simply unacceptable,” said Attorney General Becerra. “In California we know that welcoming and investing in all communities makes our entire nation stronger. I know this being the son of hard-working, modest immigrants who likely would have been victims of this regressive policy. We will fight this unlawful rule every step of the way.”

“Immigrants literally built this nation, and today help make California an economic engine that powers our country,” said Governor Newsom. “This latest move by the federal administration to demonize immigrants is personal for us, in a state where half of our children have at least one immigrant parent. This new rule, designed to create fear in immigrant families, is cruel and threatens our public health. That is not who we are in California, and not who we are as Americans. We’re standing up to the Trump Administration in court to protect our economy, our families, and our most sacred values.”

Public benefit programs are designed to help working families make ends meet and ensure strong, healthy families in California. Current guidance by the federal government defines a public charge as a person who is primarily dependent on either public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutional long-term care at the government’s expense. The Rule declares that use of additional government programs, including nutrition and food support through CalFresh (California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), healthcare through Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program), and housing for families through Section 8 housing assistance, now constitute grounds for a public charge determination. These changes would discourage many immigrants and mixed immigration-status families, who are not otherwise subject to the rule, from accessing benefits for which they are eligible and entitled. 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. 

In the lawsuit, the Attorneys General argue that the Rule:  

  • Violates the Equal Protection Guarantee of the Fifth Amendment: The Rule will disproportionately block admission of non-white, non-European immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and Africa. It will also prevent higher numbers of immigrants of color from extending their visas or becoming lawful permanent residents, and ultimately create more obstacles in the path to U.S. citizenship.
  • Arbitrary and Capricious: The Rule punishes immigrants for participating in widely used public benefits programs that are designed to mitigate economic inequality and bolster self-sufficiency, particularly among low wage workers. The Rule also fails to adequately assess the costs that increasing the poverty of families and U.S. citizen children will have on the Nation, its states, and communities.
  • Contrary to Law: The Rule is contrary to law, interferes with the states’ rights to protect their residents, and exceeds the Administration’s authority under federal immigration law by circumventing congressional intent.

On October 10, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security issued a proposed rule that would significantly change the grounds for excluding immigrants under the Immigration and Nationality Act. On December 10, 2018, Attorney General Becerra submitted a comment letter urging the Department of Homeland Security and the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to withdraw the proposed rule. On August 12, 2019, the Rule was posted in the federal register and Attorney General Becerra criticized the Rule detailing how it will negatively impact California’s public health, social services, housing, educational programs and economy. 

Joining Attorney General Becerra in filing the lawsuit are the Attorneys General of Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the complaint is available here.

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