On Friday, October 11, 2019, three federal courts issued nationwide injunctions against the Trump Administration to stop the application of the public charge rules, which were set to start on October 15 at noon. The three courts issued the decisions almost simultaneously. The public charge rules were designed to make it extremely difficult for working class and low income families to obtain status in the USA by penalizing them for not having achieved certain educational levels, not having language fluency, not having investments, being disabled or too young or old, staying home rather than working, not having credit or having bad credit, not owning property, and numerous other criteria designed to prefer educated, financially empowered, healthy, and young immigrants. 

Based on the three court decisions below, the public charge rules are stopped until the various suits against the Administration run their course – unless a higher court decides otherwise. This means that individuals pursuing changes of status and extensions of status in the USA can continue without the additional concerns until further notice. It is unclear whether the Department of State, which had published last week a public charge rule of its own for use by consulates, will withdraw those new rules in light of these three court rulings.

Get Help from an Atlanta Immigration Lawyer

Understanding immigration in the United States is complex and difficult, especially with the frequent changes. Get the help you need so that your immigration journey can go as smoothly as possible. The Atlanta immigration attorneys at Antonini & Cohen have many years of experience helping immigrants like you. Our clients say we treat them like family, and it shows in how we recognize that each situation is different and requires the proper attention to detail and careful planning. Call us at 404-850-9394 or contact us online to schedule an appointment so that we can assist you with your immigration questions today.

The First Court Decision – U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington

The first decision came from the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington. The States of Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, and the Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Virginia sued the Trump Administration. The court ordered the injunction for a variety of reasons, but it focused on the complexity of the rule and the totality of circumstances test. It noted that the public charge rules would result in inconsistent results depending on the individual adjudicating officer. It would create fear and confusion among the community and have a chilling effect on individuals. In addition, it would promote a message of barriers towards legalization. The court noted that Congress had passed laws regarding welfare, and there had been numerous regulations from the agency. It referred to statutes and rules from 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2013, with the current rules being a drastic departure. The court was critical of the Administration for not citing “… any statute, legislative history, or other resource” in support of their assertion that Congress gave them power to define self-sufficiency, public charge, and welfare. They also contrasted the Administration’s lack of substantive argument with the extensive body of laws cited by the lawyers of the 13 states suing the Administration.

The Second Court Decision – U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York

The second decision came from the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, which was filed by the City of New York and the States of Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. That court granted the injunction and held that the Trump Administration “fail[ed] to provide any reasonable explanation for changing the definition of public charge.” The court wrote: “At oral argument, Defendants were afforded numerous opportunities to articulate a rational basis for equating public charge with the receipt of public benefits for 12 months within a 36-month period. Particularly when this has never been the rule. Defendants failed each and every time.” The court also scoffed at the government’s argument that required English for a public charge analysis was “entirely reasonable.” The court noted that English proficiency had never been a requirement, this country does not have an official language, and the Administration did not establish any correlation between self-sufficiency and language fluency. The court reminded the Administration about the flow of immigrants to this nation, many with no language skills, and concluded that with or without help, most immigrants come to succeed and do succeed. The court characterized the Administration’s rule as “a policy of exclusion in search of justification” and called it “repugnant to the American dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work.”

The Third Court Decision – U.S. District Court, Northern District of California

The last decision came from the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. It was brought by the Cities and Counties of San Francisco and Santa Clara, the State of California, Clinica La Raza, and eight other organizations. That court focused its inquiry and ruling primarily on two things. First, the Administration claimed that the public will benefit from the rule. However, they provided no evidentiary support. The court noted that just the opposite was true, citing ample evidence in the comments (to the rule) that support that use of public benefits improves public health and welfare. The court concluded that the Administration’s “bare assertion to the contrary simply is not enough to satisfy its obligations.” Second, ignoring the lack of a reasoned explanation, the Administration did not engage in a cost-benefit analysis. They also did not address its own history regarding prior public charge rules, the impact it would have on the health of the community through confusion and the impact on children, especially USA citizens. The court was particularly concerned with the impact of foregoing basic medical care, such as vaccines, stating that the Administration made “…no attempt, whatsoever, to investigate the type or magnitude of harm that would flow from the reality which it admittedly recognized would result – fewer people would be vaccinated.”

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If you’re overwhelmed with the immigration system and the ongoing changes, you’re not alone. The Atlanta immigration lawyers at Antonini & Cohen have many years helping individuals and families just like you so that things can go as smoothly as possible. Call us at 404-850-9394 or contact us online to schedule an appointment so that we can assist you with your immigration questions today.

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