Becerra files suit challenging Trump Administration Public Charge Rule

Screenshot of public charge complaint filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Screenshot of public charge complaint filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

When California is home to more than 10 million immigrants, the state’s attorney general took action to protect immigrant families and children with immigrant parents who could be affected by the recent Trump Administration public charge rule.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra 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.

“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 Becerra who is leading the coalition of five attorney general including Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

The lawsuit, filed on Aug. 16 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.

“In California we know that welcoming and investing in all communities makes our entire nation stronger,” Becerra said. “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 advocates believes the Public Charge 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.

It will also create 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’, according to Becerra’s office.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and Becerra held a press conference at the California State Capitol, Governor’s Press Conference Room on Aug. 16 to announce legal action on immigration.

“Immigrants literally built this nation, and today help make California an economic engine that powers our country,” said 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.”

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.

“This new rule, designed to create fear in immigrant families, is cruel and threatens our public health,” Newsom said. “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,” Newsom said.

According to the Attorney General’s office, 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 public charge 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.

State officials as well as health and immigrant advocates believe 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.

On Oct. 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. Two month later, (Dec. 10, 2018), Becerra submitted a comment letter urging the Department of Homeland Security and the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to withdraw the proposed rule.

On Aug. 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.

This new rule takes effect until October 15.

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud