New York City Seeks Preliminary Injunction Against Trump Administration Over Public Charge Rule

September 10, 2019

New York City has filed a motion to seek a preliminary injunction to stop the Trump Administration’s public charge rule from going into effect. The new rule aims to deny green cards and visas to immigrants who use or have used government assistance programs. Such a rule would have short and long term impacts on public health and the economy. The initial lawsuit, filed in August 2019 in the Southern District of New York, is led by New York Attorney General Letitia James and includes the States of Connecticut and Vermont. The suit challenges the Trump Administration’s attempt to specifically target immigrants of color, while putting these communities at risk. 

“By making the path to citizenship more difficult for some noncitizens who must avail themselves of vital public benefits and services, the Trump Administration threatens us all,” said Acting Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana. “We’ve asked the Court to stop the Rule from being implemented against hardworking immigrant residents who are deeply integrated into our communities and add to the vitality of this city.”

“With this filing we are fighting to prevent the public charge rule from taking effect and harming our communities. This rule is an assault on the healthcare and well-being of not just immigrants, but all New Yorkers,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “Confusion around public charge poses a significant risk as many immigrants who are not affected by the rule may avoid seeking the help they need due to fear. New York City residents, regardless of immigration status, can call ActionNYC at 1-800-354-0365 or 311 and say ‘public charge’ to access free, trusted immigration legal help so they can make the best decisions and not needlessly forgo benefits to which they are entitled.”

The preliminary injunction motion seeks to stop the public charge rule from taking effect on October 15, 2019, arguing that it would irreparably harm millions of noncitizens and their family members by deterring them from accessing public benefits they are lawfully entitled to receive, causing tremendous economic, public health, and other harms. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) new public charge definition disregards clear congressional intent and a century’s worth of case law holding that immigrants who use basic, non-cash benefits are not considered public charges because they are not primarily dependent on the government. Additionally, the public charge rule’s disparate impact on immigrants of color and immigrants with disabilities weaponizes the public charge inquiry to discourage and harm these communities in particular. Finally, the rule fundamentally misunderstands that these non-cash programs are designed to help immigrants who arrive in this country with limited means move out of poverty and achieve upward mobility.

“Penalizing hard-working families and children seeking food assistance and other essential aid—or threatening to do so—is unconscionable and un-American,” said Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “As the Trump Administration seeks to inspire fear and target communities across our city, we’re proud to partner with AG James in fighting back, using every tool at our disposal. All New Yorkers should know: this change has not gone into effect, so do not forego essential assistance without speaking to an attorney. If you have questions or concerns about your status, ActionNYC will provide free, confidential legal guidance. We at DSS remain committed to connecting all New Yorkers in need to the benefits for which they are eligible, ensuring they can make ends meet, no matter where they’ve come from.”

“I remain hopeful that this dangerous and short-sighted immigration rule will never go into effect,” said Mitchell Katz, MD, CEO and President of NYC Health + Hospitals. “At NYC Health + Hospitals, we welcome everyone no matter what their immigration status or income is. Accessing care at one of our facilities will not cause someone to be identified as a public charge. New Yorkers should continue to seek care without fear. At NYC Health + Hospitals we take care of all New Yorkers, and we will continue to do so regardless of the federal administration’s fear-mongering.”

“This rule would be devastating to the health of immigrants, particularly infants and children of color,” said NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Medicaid and Child Health Plus help prevent avoidable hospitalizations among children and reduces infant and child mortality. Since the proposed changes were leaked, Department of Health staff have received anecdotal reports that some clients have declined services--even those that are not covered as 'public benefits.' This rule is bad for immigrants, bad for families and bad for health. I applaud my colleagues at the Law Department and the Attorney General’s Office for challenging this awful rule.”