Judge blocks rule making it harder to get green card if you rely on public benefits

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WASHINGTON -- A federal judge on Friday blocked a Trump administration rule that makes it more difficult for immigrants who rely on public assistance to obtain legal status, just days before the regulation was set to take effect.

Under the proposed rule, many green card and visa applicants could be turned down if they have low incomes or limited education because they'd be deemed more likely to need government assistance in the future, including most forms of Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers.

Friday's ruling from US District Judge George B. Daniels against the so-called "Public Charge" rule will apply nationwide.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who led the lawsuit, has said the rule specifically targets immigrants of color.

"This rule would have had devastating impacts on New Yorkers and our nation, and today's decision is a critical step in our efforts to uphold the rule of law," James said on Twitter, responding to the ruling.

There have been at least nine lawsuits brought against the rule, which was announced in August. That includes a multi-state challenge led by California.

The release of the rule came at least a year after White House adviser and immigration hardliner Stephen Miller pushed to expedite the policy.

The rule prompted concern among advocates who argued it would lead many immigrants -- including those with children who are citizens -- to forgo participating in a government safety net program because of fear that it could risk their green card status in the future.

They've pointed to that evidence this is already happening, including a rise in the nation's uninsured rate for 2018. The uninsured rate for Latinos and for children, in particular, increased last year.

study published by the Urban Institute earlier this year found that about one in seven adults in immigrant families reported that either the person or a family member did not participate in a non-cash safety net program last year because of fear of risking his or her green card status in the future.

Among low-income immigrant families, the figure was more than one in five, according to the study, which was based on a December 2018 survey of nearly 2,000 non-elderly adults who are foreign born or live with at least one foreign-born family member.

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

Acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli defended the regulation earlier this year, saying, it will encourage "self-reliance and self-sufficiency for those seeking to come to or stay in the United States."

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