Newsom announces lawsuit over new green card policy

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new legal action on a Trump administration policy that would make it harder for those who rely on public benefits to get green cards or visas.

The 837-page rule applies to those seeking to come to or remain in the United States via legal channels. The so-called public charge rule is designed to ensure immigrants can support themselves financially. The policy makes it easier to deny immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers or other forms of public assistance.

Under current regulations put in place in 1996, the term is defined as someone who is “primarily dependent” on government assistance, meaning it supplies more than half their income. But it only counted cash benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income from Social Security.

Officials can take into account an applicant’s financial resources, health, education, skills, family status and age. But few people are rejected on these relatively narrow grounds, experts said.

Immigrant advocates have argued that the rule, as it was proposed, went far beyond what Congress intended and would discriminate against those from poorer countries, keep families apart and prompt legal residents to forgo needed public aid, which could also impact their US citizen children.

They also said it would penalize even hard-working immigrants who only need a small bit of temporary assistance from the government.

Earlier this year, Trump also issued a memorandum doubling down on a current law that requires immigrants’ sponsors to take financial responsibility for certain income-based government benefits, such as food stamps, the immigrant receives. It’s unclear whether enforcing the law would make any substantial difference.

Undocumented immigrants would not be affected — unless an avenue opens up for them to apply for green cards or visas since they are largely ineligible for public aid.

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