TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and 12 other state Attorneys General today filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s new “public charge” rule, which effectively imposes a means test on legal immigration by denying legal status to those immigrants receiving government medical, housing or food assistance, or other forms of public assistance.
The new rule was widely viewed as a move by the Administration to expand its efforts to curb even legal immigration, and to shun immigrants who come into this country lawfully but nevertheless struggle financially, including immigrants from poorer countries. As some described it, the Administration’s new rule places an aggressive wealth test on which immigrants are entitled to permanent legal status, also known as a green card.
“No family should ever have to choose between staying in America and having access to health care, food, and housing,” said Governor Murphy. “Attorney General Grewal and I are committed to fighting the Trump Administration's inhumane, cruel, and un-American changes to the public charge rule.”
“The Administration’s efforts to make immigration available only to the well-off are as unlawful as they are inhumane,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The American Dream has always been about opportunity for all, not just the wealthy, but now our federal government is trying to keep out immigrants seeking to build a new life here, as families have done since the founding of our nation. Not only is that bad for our immigrant neighbors, but it is bad for New Jersey, where immigrants are part of the fabric of our communities and our economy. I am proud to challenge this rule in court.”
In the complaint, New Jersey argues that the Administration’s new rule is inconsistent with the Immigration and Nationality Act. The INA allows immigration authorities to deny admission to the U.S. to someone likely to become a “public charge” – a term that has been understood for centuries to mean someone primarily dependent on the government for support – but the new rule finalized Monday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security expands the definition to deny admission to adults who make nearly any use of various government assistance programs, including Medicaid, Section 8 housing assistance, and food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
The states challenging the new rule explain that the new rule will cause immigrants to dis-enroll from important benefits programs, harming immigrant families, imposing increased costs on states, and undercutting state policies and programs. This reduction in enrollment in state and federal health benefits programs will inflict increased costs on states and worsen health outcomes on state populations. Among other things, disenrollment from disability assistance programs will cause labor shortages of health care workers and increase the risk of injury for elderly and disabled residents who dis-enroll; disenrollment from job training programs will make even more individuals dependent on public benefits; and disenrollment from SNAP will mean more families go hungry.
Not only does this rule harm the affected individuals, but it also harms the states. As the complaint details, states have sovereign interest in administering their own assistance programs, free from deterrence by the federal government. This rule will also negatively impact state economies by reducing the productivity of workers and the tax base.
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