New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration on Tuesday, challenging a rule change that makes it easier to deny green cards and visas to immigrants seeking government financial assistance.
The Manhattan federal lawsuit — filed by James and the attorneys general of Connecticut and Vermont — seeks to block changes to the public charge rule from taking effect on Oct. 15, and argues that the rule is unconstitutional, saying it ignores “a century’s worth of case law.”
The current rule makes it possible to brand immigrants who accept public assistance as a “public charge” — meaning they would likely rely on public assistance in the future. The federal government can use public charge status when weighing whether to grant green cards and visas. The rule change expands the number of assistance programs that can qualify someone as a public charge, adding food stamps and public health insurance programs, among others.
“Generations of citizens landed on the welcoming shores of Ellis Island with nothing more than a dream in their pockets,” said James. “The Trump Administration’s thinly veiled efforts to only allow those who meet their narrow ethnic, racial and economic criteria to gain a path to citizenship is a clear violation of our laws and our values. Quite simply, under this rule, more children will go hungry, more families will go without medical care and more people will be living in the shadows and on the streets. We cannot and we will not let that happen.”
The complaint targets the Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and its acting director, Kenneth Cuccinelli, and the United States of America.
James announced the lawsuit during a Tuesday rally outside the federal courthouses in Lower Manhattan, where she was joined by various lawmakers, including US Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Bronx state Sen. Gustavo Rivera and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.
The Department of Justice did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
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