New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Monday that her office plans to launch a lawsuit against the Trump administration following the rollout of its new “public charge” rule, which would tighten restrictions on immigration to the U.S. by turning government aid into a roadblock.
The policy, which takes effect in October, will mandate that caseworkers determine whether visa and permanent legal resident applicants are a “public charge” to the government because they use aid programs, including Medicaid, food stamps and housing assistance. That means low-income immigrants who are in the U.S. legally will face serious obstacles to remaining in the country if they accept public assistance.
In a statement released Monday, James called it “yet one more example of his Administration turning its back on people fighting to make a better life for them and their families.”
“Under this rule, children will go hungry; families will go without medical care,” she said. “I am committed to defending all of New York’s communities, which is why I intend to sue the Trump Administration over this egregious rule.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has also vowed to take action against the policy, arguing that the “vile rule” is the administration’s “latest attack on families and lower income communities of color.”
“It will harm our communities, schools, and workplaces by weaponizing essential healthcare, housing, and nutrition programs,” Becerra said in a press release. “We will not stand idly by while this Administration targets programs that children and families across our state rely upon. We are ready to take legal action to protect the rights of all Californians.”
Following the announcement of the rule, Acting Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli was asked what it meant for the future of legal immigration. CBS News’ Steven Portnoy asked whether the words “Give me your tired, your poor” should be stripped from the Statue of Liberty.
“I’m certainly not prepared to take anything down off the Statue of Liberty,” Cuccinelli said, stating that the U.S. has “a long history of being one of the most welcoming nations in the world.”
But based on the public charge rule, that could change.
According to a White House description of the policy, it is intended to “protect American taxpayers, preserve our social safety net for vulnerable Americans, and uphold the rule of law.”
“This action will help ensure that if aliens want to enter or remain in the United States they must support themselves, and not rely on public benefits,” it reads.
In May, a study from the left-leaning Urban Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, found that in 2018, one in seven immigrant families reported forgoing public benefit programs. According to the report, it was a “chilling effect” of the public charge rule, which has been codified since 1882, though the Trump administration is giving it added force.
Under former President Bill Clinton, the standard became part of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, but it applied only to cash benefits, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, rather than the non-cash programs targeted by President Donald Trump.