Public charge rule retroactively enforced on immigration applications

The Trump administration on Tuesday reinstated its so-called “public charge” rule for green card applicants after a federal appeals court allowed the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency to move forward with it.

In July, U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels in Manhattan refused to throw out a lawsuit challenging the rule and granted an injunction to hold off on the immigration changes, citing the coronavirus pandemic. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ended the injunction on September 11, paving the way for the Trump administration to enforce the rule. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency will apply the public charge rule to all applications and petitions filed since February 24. The rule applies nationwide.

“Neither the passage of time nor the onset of a pandemic has made this bad idea any better,” Association for Community Affiliated Plans CEO Margaret Murray said in a statement. “This will exacerbate outbreaks of COVID where they occur, and leave it to safety net providers—community health centers, public hospitals, county health departments and others—to clean up the mess by forcing them to provide uncompensated care when someone who’s staying uninsured for the sake of a better shot at a green card gets sick.”

The rule is meant to prevent people who look like they will need public assistance from legally immigrating to the U.S. Plaintiffs challenging the rule claimed it had made it more difficult for immigrants to receive COVID-19 testing and care.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration could move forward with the public charge plans as the case continued to wind its way through the courts, striking down a nationwide injunction on the plan.

But Daniels ruled in favor of a nationwide injunction, saying a narrow, geographically limited injunction is “especially unworkable” in an immigration situation.

A two-judge panel for the appeals court lifted the injunction, saying DHS had shown it would probably win “on the merits as we doubt that the district court had jurisdiction to issue the preliminary injunction while this court was considering an appeal from a prior, virtually identical preliminary injunction.”


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