Judge Blocks Trump’s ‘Public Charge’ Immigration Rule

Hundreds of people overflow onto the sidewalk in a line snaking around the block outside a U.S. immigration office with numerous courtrooms in San Francisco on Jan. 31, 2019. Federal judges are being asked to block a new Trump administration policy scheduled to take effect next week that would deny legal permanent residency to many immigrants over the use of public benefits. Almost a dozen lawsuits have been filed from New York to California to prevent the “public charge” rule from taking effect on Oct. 15. Judges have indicated a willingness to issue rulings before the scheduled start date. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

MANHATTAN (CN) – Days after skewering the government’s rationale for denying green cards to immigrants on welfare, a federal judge on Friday blocked the Trump administration’s so-called “public charge” rule in a fiery opinion.

“It is repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility,” U.S. District Judge George Daniels wrote of Trump’s sought-after barriers to U.S. permanent residency. “Immigrants have always come to this country seeking a better live for themselves and their posterity. With or without help, most succeed.”

The scathing 24-page ruling casts the rule change as an unnecessary departure from procedures in place for “over a century.”

“Aside from conclusory allegations that they will ‘be harmed by the impediment’ to administering the immigration system, defendants did not — and cannot — articulate what actual hardship they will suffer from maintaining the status quo,” Daniels wrote.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who led the lawsuit challenging the change, quickly celebrated the decision.

“The history of our nation is inextricably tied to our immigrant communities, and because of today’s decision, so too will be our future,” James wrote.

“Once again, the courts have thwarted the Trump administration’s attempts to enact rules that violate both our laws and our values, sending a loud and clear message that they cannot rewrite our story to meet their agenda. This rule would have had devastating impacts on all New Yorkers – citizens and non-citizens alike – and today’s decision is a critical step in our efforts to uphold the rule of law.”

The attorney general was joined by a coalition of civil rights groups, led by Make the Road New York.

Ghita Schwarz, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said she had been “very, very gratified” that Daniels is ordering an injunction.

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, defended the rule.

“Through faithful execution of the law, we will ensure that immigrants are able to successfully support themselves as they seek opportunity here,” Cucinelli said in a statement. “An objective judiciary will see that this rule lies squarely within long-held existing law.”

While the remark levels a veiled bias against federal judges from coast to coast, the jurist who issued the order with national application, Daniels, had previously ruled in favor of Trump in a lawsuit claiming the president’s business empire violated the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Daniels’ dismissal of the case was later reversed by the Second Circuit, and he will consider the case again on remand.

In today’s ruling, meanwhile, Daniels excoriated the government’s “baseless” attempt to find that non-English proficiency increased the likelihood an immigrant would become an effective ward of the state.

“The United States of America has no official language,” Daniels wrote. “Many, if not most, immigrants who arrived at these shores did not speak English. It is simply offensive to contend that English proficiency is a valid predictor of self-sufficiency.”

During oral arguments earlier this week, Justice Department attorney Ethan Davis refused to rule out that using a wheelchair could factor into a determination that an immigrant could become a public charge.

Citing the Rehabilitation Act, Daniels reminded the government that federal law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

“In fact, it is inconsistent with the reality that many individuals with disabilities live independent and productive lives,” the judge wrote.

Daniels warned that allowing the “public charge” rule to take effect would expose many to suffer “irreparable harm.”

“No less important is the immediate and significant impact that the implementation of the rule will have on law-abiding residents who have come to this country to seek a better life,” he wrote. “The consequences that plaintiffs must address, and America must endure, will be personal and public disruption, much of which cannot be undone.

“Overnight, the rule will expose individuals to economic insecurity, health instability, denial of their path to citizenship, and potential deportation—none of which is the result of any conduct by those such injuries will affect,” the ruling continues. “It is a rule that will punish individuals for their receipt of benefits provided by our government, and discourages them from lawfully receiving available assistance intended to aid them in becoming contributing members of our society.”

Daniels issued a nationwide, preliminary injunction upon the rule, which had been supposed to take effect on Oct. 15.

A federal judge in San Francisco blocked the rule Friday as well, but only in the districts that joined a challenge filed by California – Oregon, the District of Columbia, Maine and Pennsylvania.

“The court finds that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits for numerous reasons,” U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton wrote in a 93-page order. “The Department of Homeland Security’s new definition of ‘public charge’ is likely to be outside the bounds of a reasonable interpretation of the statute. Moreover, plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their entirely independent arguments that defendants acted arbitrarily and capriciously during the legally required process to implement the changes they propose.”

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