Magazine, Immigration, BY BETH FERTIG, WNYC

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the government’s request to let a new rule go into effect that would make it much harder for low-income immigrants to obtain permanent residency. This public charge rule has been challenged by states and immigrant groups across the country and was supposed to start last October.

The government wanted the appeals court to stay a national injunction issued last fall by a district court judge in New York. In October, Judge George B. Daniels said it was “repugnant” for the government to deny green cards to immigrants who take benefits including food stamps.

In its appeal, the government argued that two other courts in California and Virginia had already lifted similar injunctions. The one in New York was the last remaining national injunction. U.S. Department of Justice Attorney Daniel Tenny said the government would suffer harm if the rule continues to be blocked, because immigrants who have taken public benefits are still receiving green cards.

The Trump administration has argued it’s trying to prevent too many low-income immigrants from becoming permanent residents if they’re likely to need costly government benefits. Those who use 12 months of non-cash benefits, including food stamps and housing assistance, within three years would be considered at risk of becoming a public charge.

But immigrant advocates countered that this much more strict definition of public charge is illegal, and that an immigrant who accepts three different forms of non-cash assistance for just four months, because of an emergency, could be denied a green card under the rule. They also said the rule would discriminate against blacks, Latinos and others from poor nations.

Susan Welber, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society, said the Department of Homeland Security even acknowledged the rule would scare legal immigrants from accepting public assistance.

“DHS itself conceded in issuing the rule that it would have devastating effects on public health, that it would cause people to disconnect from benefits they need and that they’re eligible for,” she said.

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