New York, NY—Yesterday, Judge George Daniels, a U.S. District Court Judge in Manhattan, issued a nationwide injunction temporarily halting the Trump administration’s changes to the Public Charge rule. Judge Daniels’ decision came after New York State Attorney General Letitia James and immigrant rights groups requested an injunction of the new rule in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ruling was a response to immigrant advocates’ arguments that the Public Charge rule in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic had caused additional harms.
As the pandemic hit the US, advocates contended the Trump administration’s rule changes forced immigrant families to choose between accessing food, housing and healthcare programs, and obtaining certain visas or green cards. Although the changes only applied to certain categories of immigrants, the administration’s changes incited widespread fear in immigrant communities. Advocates expect the Trump administration to appeal this decision.
New Yorkers who have questions about the Public Charge rule should contact the Office for New Americans hotline at 1-800-566-7636 to receive more information.
“Judge Daniels' injunction halting the Trump administration’s cruel and racist changes to the Public Charge rule is a victory for our immigrant communities and will make America’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic far smoother,” said Steve Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “The White House’s administrative changes to Public Charge furthered a xenophobic agenda at the cost of weakening our response to the outbreak and endangering the nation’s public health. The past few months proved that America cannot beat back this virus if we do not prioritize the health and well-being of everyone who calls this country home. We celebrate this win for immigrant communities and the country.”
Advocates expect the Judge Daniels decision to be appealed. It is possible that the Trump administration’s changes could go back into effect, depending on subsequent rulings.
The Trump administration’s changes to the Public Charge rule penalized certain immigrants for using federally-funded Medicaid, SNAP, and subsidized housing assistance. The only public benefits that could be considered as part of a person’s Public Charge determination prior to the rule changes were cash benefits and long-term medical care paid for by the government.
Many immigrants will continue to be exempt from the public charge determination, including asylees, refugees, and survivors of trafficking and domestic violence. Legal permanent residents applying for citizenship are also not subject to the rule. New Yorkers who have concerns about public charge should contact the Office for New Americans hotline at 1-800-566-7636.
Public charge determinations are based on a “totality of circumstances,” which considers whether a person’s income, resources, age, family situation and health would lead to dependence on government assistance in the future. A person’s enrollment in cash benefits and long-term medical care is not the sole factor considered in a person’s public charge determination.
“This decision is a triumph for common sense and compassion and a deserved repudiation of President Trump’s cruel and counterproductive anti-immigrant policies,” said U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “The court recognized that it makes absolutely no sense for the Trump administration to use the ‘public charge’ rule to deny legal immigrants access to health care and aid during a pandemic and economic meltdown. Senate Democrats will continue fighting to protect the immigrant community and make sure nobody in America is faced with the decision between feeding their families or risk being torn apart from them.”
“While the federal court’s decision is a major victory, Congress must ensure that testing and assistance are accessible to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). “I am fighting to include important provisions of the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act in any upcoming Congressional relief package because every New Yorker deserves the opportunity to seek care without fear. Our state, and our nation, can’t afford to leave anyone behind in our rebuilding efforts.”
“This victory will immediately halt the Trump Administration’s discriminatory rule from continuing to hurt every person across the nation,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office argued the case in federal court. “For nearly five months, the Public Charge Rule has further exacerbated the public health crisis the country faces by punishing New York and other immigrant-rich states — stripping families of their ability to access basic services. Immigrants have been on the front lines fighting this pandemic from the start, and this injunction will ensure they are not targeted for obtaining health coverage or other vital services, as they continue to battle COVID-19. This order is vital to our national health, as every person who doesn’t get the health coverage they need today risks infecting another person with the coronavirus tomorrow.”
“In the middle of an unprecedented health and economic crisis, the Trump Administration’s inhumane public charge rule would have threatened the basic health and safety of our families and communities, especially in New York,” said U.S. Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY17). “The U.S. District Court of Manhattan’s temporary injunction will mean that immigrants seeking an adjustment of status won’t go without food or necessary medical treatment during a pandemic and the safety of our communities won’t be cruelly jeopardized.”
“Across the country, as our entire nation felt the economic downtown spurred by COVID, immigrant and refugee families were faced with decisions that no one should ever have to make – between putting food on the table and staying in this country to eat those meal with their families; between a roof over their child’s head or being deported; between getting medical attention during a pandemic or ignoring their symptoms and hoping they would just pas,” said U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY12). “But today, thanks to the New York Immigration Coalition’s advocacy here in New York and in partnership with organizations across the country, we have good news. But, as we celebrate this victory, we still have work to do. We must continue to fight all the policies and proposals of the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda. We will not and must not ever allow hate and bigotry to win. You can count on me to be with you in every step of this fight.”
“This administration’s public charge rule is fundamentally un-American and it is especially dangerous during a pandemic, where intimidating immigrant families from seeking public services can mean the difference between them having or not having food on the table, accessing medical services, or seeing any other of their vital needs addressed,” said U.S. Representative Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY5). “I’m proud to stand with NYIC and all the advocates that are successfully challenging this administration in the courts.”
“Denying critical safety net programs for health care, food and other basic and daily necessities during the coronavirus outbreak has had dire consequences for immigrant communities, and has only exacerbated this pandemic,” said U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY6). “Immigrants should not be forced to choose between their status and the vital services they require, and this callous and cold-hearted public charge rule has no place in our country, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis. Immigrants have always been America’s strength, and over the last several months, we’ve seen the enormous sacrifices that immigrants have made for our communities, selflessly risking their own health and safety, and the safety of their families, by working on the front lines to help us get through this crisis. We cannot allow this administration to cause our immigrant communities further harm. As a member of Congress who has helped lead the fight against the public charge rule, I’m proud to stand with the New York Immigration Coalition in hailing this decision, and I thank and commend all who worked tirelessly to help make it happen.”
“Once again, a New York District court has stopped the Trump Administration from implementing the ‘public charge’ rule during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY10). “As multiple federal courts around the country have recognized, this rule is a blatant attempt by the Administration to rewrite our immigration laws by executive fiat — which they cannot do. The injunction provides an important safeguard against implementation of this unlawful rule, and I am relieved to know our laws are still in place to stop such abuses."
“The public charge rule changes proposed by President Trump were unconscionable and unconstitutional,” said U.S. Representative Jose E. Serrano (D-NY-15). “People shouldn’t have to forgo accessing the help they desperately need amid the COVID-19 pandemic to preserve their ability to obtain visas or move towards LPR status. I applaud Judge Daniels’s decision to block the Trump Administration’s changes and join the NY Immigration Coalition in celebrating this important step.”
“From the outset, Donald Trump’s public charge rule was a hateful, discriminatory effort to demonize immigrants, but its harmful impact has become all the more evident during the pandemic,” said U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY7). “I’m relieved the Court had the wisdom to block this rule, which would hurt so many New Yorkers and immigrants across the nation. I’ll continue working in Congress to advance legislation to stop this rule once and for all.”
"Here in New York City, we celebrate our immigrant communities and we know that diversity is our strength," said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. "Congratulations to all the advocates, legal service providers, and elected officials who fought hard to win this fight against the racist and xenophobic Public Charge rule, and I applaud the New York Immigrant Coalition for holding our leaders accountable and providing countless services for people in need. We will continue to stand up for our immigrant neighbors and we will not rest until our city, our state, and our country are safe for all immigrants."
"The president's disdain for immigrants in this country has long been clear, and his efforts to enforce a public charge rule that will act as a backdoor ban on low and middle class immigrants are among the most revealing and damaging,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. “I am glad that the administration's efforts have again been halted amid the COVID-19 crisis – but the inhumanity of Trump's actions is not limited to the pandemic, nor is our work to fight back."
“The District Court rightly recognized how the Public Charge Rule severely continues to harm immigrant communities—many of whom are working on the frontlines of this public health crisis—and hinders our efforts to address the devastating health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “It is a matter of life or death that all New Yorkers in need of medical care, food assistance, and other benefits and services seek and receive the help they need without fear of immigration consequences. New York City residents who have questions about how accessing certain public benefits may affect immigration status can call the ActionNYC hotline at 1-800-354-0365 to connect with free, safe immigration legal help.”
“African Services Committee represents some of the most vulnerable populations and we’ve seen first hand what Judge Daniels affirmed in his ruling: The Trump administration’s cruel and unlawful Public Charge regulation has been devastating to immigrant families tirelessly working the frontlines of the pandemic while being forced out of fear and confusion to withdraw from vital public health services or risk immigration status and separation from loved ones,” said African Services Committee Staff Attorney, Gabriel M. Guimarães.
"The cruel public charge rule from the Trump administration has for far too long sown fear and confusion in the immigrant communities we serve, forcing hard-working immigrants to choose between keeping their families intact and dis-enrolling from much needed health care and public benefits,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation. “During the COVID-19 pandemic AAF has been saddened by the many reports of immigrant families, many of whom who were on the frontlines as essential workers, who misunderstood the administration's mixed messaging and chose to forgo medical care and assistance from food pantries for fear of being separated from their families. We are relieved and grateful that the Court has intervened to block this absurd and dangerous rule nationwide. We, at AAF, will not stop fighting until the public charge rule is rescinded completely.”
“Preventing the poor from accessing food, shelter and health care is never okay. The new public charge rule is immoral and barbaric, and harms children who are residing in households with immigrant family members,” said Ben Anderson, Director of Poverty and Health Policy at the Children’s Defense Fund-New York. “We applaud the court’s decision, which recognizes that access to basic human needs is essential and necessary during this health and economic crisis.”
"During this global pandemic and unprecedented economic crisis, our community members have been forced to choose between seeking testing, treatment, and resources, and keeping their families together,” said Carlyn Cowen, Chief Policy and Public Affairs Officer at the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC). “We applaud Judge Daniels' decision to suspend the public charge rule, and will continue to fight alongside our allies to permanently end public charge.”
"The public charge rule is a cruel, discriminatory policy that threatens the health and well-being of immigrants in New York and throughout the country," said Jennifer March, Executive Director of Citizens' Committee for Children.
"No person should be afraid to access health, housing, and food assistance, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” said Alice Bufkin, Director of Policy for Child and Adolescent Health at Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. “We applaud the court's decision and the dedication of the plaintiffs in these cases, which will now allow more children and families to access life-saving services without fear during this crisis.”
“As we continue to push for stronger policies that promote food security and resiliency amid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that many immigrant communities have been unfairly excluded from the majority of federal disaster relief provisions,” said Jerome Nathaniel, Associate Director of Policy and Government Relations at City Harvest. “City Harvest stands with the anti-hunger community in opposition to the public charge rule and commend Judge Daniels for protecting the more than 400,000 New Yorkers who could lose access to food benefits through this harmful rule. We will continue to work to ensure immigrant New Yorkers and people across the country have access to the same benefits granted to all families in need.”
“Community Legal Advocates has vehemently opposed this Administration’s efforts to expand the ‘public charge’ rule, since it was first proposed," said Keiko Cervantes-Ospina, Co-Founder and Attorney-In-Charge, Community Legal Advocates of NY, Inc. "The new rule was undeniably part of its ongoing effort to demonize immigrants and their families. We were extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court allowed this draconian rule to go into effect, allowing fear to penetrate through our communities. We are immensely gratified that the U.S. District Court in Manhattan issued a nationwide injunction temporarily halting the recent changes to the Public Charge rule. The decision by Judge George Daniels was a response to the lawyers, advocates and city and state governments who worked tirelessly on behalf of our communities, arguing that the ‘public charge’ rule is causing irreparable harm in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a Post-COVID world, as many Americans continue to lose their jobs, the fear of accessing healthcare and benefits was even more palpable than before COVID-19. The expansion of the public charge rule put many families in danger by forcing them to make decisions between their daily survival and their future status in the U.S. This injunction was the right thing to do for our communities. We hope that this decision sends a message to all government officials that racist policies which limit access to basic needs cuts against greater public health and community goals necessary for a more united country.”
“Members of my community were among the people badly affected by the COVID-19. Implementing public charge during this pandemic was a disaster for them,” said Gbenga Awonusi, Project Coordinator at DSI International Inc. “The majority of them have a tax identification number and they pay their taxes on the menial and odd jobs they do. Some worked in grocery stores and food distribution centers during the pandemic to ensure that everyone had access to food, and others were essential workers saving the lives of Americans. Unfortunately, quite a number could not work and some were asked to quit their jobs due to the pandemic. This has brought hardship to them. Implementing public charge posed danger to their lives, as many were afraid to access any benefits, such as cash assistance programs, SNAP, Medicaid and federal public housing. We therefore are grateful the implementation of public charge is deferred until we are able to come out of this crisis.”
“Many immigrants have protected us as essential workers during this pandemic, yet have been afraid to seek help when they needed it for fear it would harm their immigration status,” said Cheryl Keshner, Senior Paralegal/Community Advocate with the Empire Justice Center in Long Island. “With this ruling, all immigrants should know that they have a legal right to access healthcare and to apply for other services if they need them. We are grateful to Attorney General Tish James, to Judge Daniels and to all the advocates who have fought so hard to overturn the cruel public charge rule.”
"Our fearless clients in Make the Road v. Cuccinelli have been on the frontlines of fighting racist and nativist policies that punish immigrants who are not wealthy”, said Susan Welber, Staff Attorney, Civil Practice Law Reform Unit, The Legal Aid Society. “They have demonstrated that a policy to discourage use of health care and other benefits during the COVID-19 public health emergency is not just wrong but also lethal. We are also very gratified that the Court similarly blocked the Department of State's own public charge rule as well as the unlawful health care proclamation.
"At Make the Road New York, we have seen the devastating effect this rule has on families scared to seek out healthcare and basic forms of assistance from food pantries and even their children’s schools,” said Jessica Young, Supervising Immigration Attorney at Make The Road New York. “We applaud the court’s decision in both our cases and will continue to fight to stop the Trump administration's reckless and inhumane attacks on immigrants.”
“NYC Health + Hospitals has continuously spoken out against the harmful public charge rule, which has made immigrant New Yorkers fearful that they must choose between accessing the health care services to which they are entitled and keeping their families together,” said Mitchell Katz, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals. “We strongly agree with the court’s conclusion that this rule deters immigrants from seeking the care that they need, including testing and treatment for COVID-19, which jeopardizes the health and well-being of all New Yorkers.”
"We applaud Judge Daniels for standing with our immigrant families and supporting them during these difficult times. Our country will take time to recover from the impact that COVID-19 has caused the entire country and our families,” said Martha Maffei, Executive Director of SEPA Mujer. “We must not forget that immigrants have been, and still are, at the frontlines of this pandemic. These families have not only been affected financially, but also, they put their health at risk on a daily basis. People should not be punished for struggling and needing assistance. It is the minimum that we can do for those that have put their lives at risk every single day during these unprecedented times.”