A federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s wealth test that denied people permanent residency if they used or were deemed likely to use public services such as Medicaid or food assistance.
The decision, from U.S. District Judge George Daniels, comes after New York and other states challenged the rule in light of the coronavirus pandemic, citing concerns of immigrants refusing to enroll in Medicaid or declining COVID-19 treatment for immigration reasons. Daniels supported this reasoning.
“As a direct result of the rule, immigrants are forced to make an impossible choice between jeopardizing health and personal safety or their immigration status,” he wrote in the ruling. “No person should hesitate to seek medical care, nor should they endure punishment or penalty if they seek temporary financial aid as a result of the pandemic’s impact.”
The newly issued injunction will be in place as long as the coronavirus remains a public health crisis, Daniels wrote.
While the government has in the past rejected green card applicants who relied on public services as their primary means of financial support, the Trump administration expanded the scope of the “public charge” rule significantly last year.
The announcement of Trump’s rule prompted legal challenges, with a case ultimately reaching the Supreme Court. The court’s conservative majority ruled in January that the rule could proceed and it was formally implemented the following month.
As the coronavirus swept through the nation in April, the state attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont asked the high court to reconsider its decision. The court declined to hear the case but left lower courts the opportunity to make its own decisions.
“We secured an injunction to block the Public Charge rule from taking effect during the #COVID19 pandemic and while our legal challenge is pending,” New York Attorney General Letitia James wrote on Wednesday. “This is a major victory to protect the health of our communities across New York and the entire nation.”
Connecticut’s attorney general William Tong said in an interview that he expects the Trump administration to appeal the ruling. However, he recognized the decision as a win for public health.
“This is a big win for the rule of law and for fairness and public health,” he said. “This is about how utterly unsafe and insane it is to try to deter people from seeking treatment for COVID or any other condition in the middle of a pandemic.”
Sources: The New York Times 07/30/20; Buzzfeed News 07/30/20; CBS 07/29/20