New York attorney general again asks court to block 'public charge' rule

New York attorney general again asks court to block ‘public charge’ rule

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Originally published by The Hill

New York's attorney general is again asking a district court to block the Trump administration's "public charge" rule just days after the Supreme Court denied her emergency request amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday night, state Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed for a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the rule, which critics say amounts to a wealth test for immigrants hoping to gain legal status in the U.S.

“Unlike the Public Charge Rule, this disease does not discriminate — infecting both citizens and non-citizens alike,” James said in a statement. “As our state and nation continue to suffer the devastating effects of COVID-19, it has become more and more clear that the Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule will only further exacerbate the problem and punish New York and other immigrant-rich states by denying many the ability to obtain health care."

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court denied petitions to temporarily block the rule while legal challenges played out in federal appeals court. James and her counterparts from Vermont and Connecticut filed an emergency motion earlier this month, asking the court to reconsider its decision in light of the outbreak.

The court denied their motion last Friday but said that the plaintiffs could seek relief from the district court.

The new rule makes it easier for noncitizens to be denied green cards if they rely on public assistance. It allows immigration authorities to consider applicants a "public charge" if they use benefits like food stamps or Medicare for 12 months in a three-year period.

Critics argue that the rule could exacerbate the current health crisis by discouraging noncitizens from seeking medical attention.

"By deterring immigrants from accessing publicly funded healthcare, including programs that would enable immigrants to obtain testing and treatment for COVID-19, the Rule makes it more likely that immigrants will suffer serious illness if infected," James wrote in her latest emergency petition. "In turn, those infected are likely to spread the virus inadvertently to others—a risk that is heightened because the essential workers who interact daily with the public are disproportionately immigrants."

The Justice Department has argued that an emergency injunction is unnecessary because the administration has decided not to consider immigrants' use of coronavirus-related public assistance in deciding whether they qualify as a public charge.

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