California is seeking an injunction to block public charge rule
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said Friday they were taking legal action in a bid to block President Trump’s new “public charge rule,” a regulation that would allow the government to bar entry to any individual deemed likely to rely on Medicaid, food stamps or other public benefits.
The new Department of Homeland Security rule will also enable the government to deport immigrants or deny visa renewals for immigrants if they use such benefits.
The move marks the 56th lawsuit the state has filed against the Trump administration. Earlier this week, California vowed to take legal action to stymie federal officials’ plans to change how the Endangered Species Act is implemented.
“I never thought I would start my week defending the bald eagle and end my week defending the statue of liberty,” Newsom said at the state capitol, with representatives of state agencies, business associations, and immigrant advocacy organizations gathered around him.
California is not the first jurisdiction to challenge the “public charge” rule. Maine, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and the District of Columbia joined the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court on Friday, seeking to stop enactment of the new rule. The complaint asserts that the rule unfairly targets “marginalized populations, such as children, students, individuals with disabilities, older adults, and low-wage working families.”
That followed a separate suit from 13 states filed earlier this week asserting that the new rule would add unlawful barriers to legal immigration, in violation of the equal protection guarantees of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. The suit also argues the move interfere with states’ rights.
‘The right thing to do’
“Not everyone starts out life with millions gifted by daddy,” Becerra said, taking aim at the Trump, whose father, Fred Trump, was a wealthy real-estate developer. California, Becerra said, was built on more “rags to riches stories.”
After reciting the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, the attorney general accused the Trump administration of weaponizing essential aid programs that provide nutrition, healthcare, and housing services to working-class families, against legal immigrants.
California is the most populous state in the nation, with almost 40 million people. Becerra, who delivered his remarks in both English and Spanish, told reporters that as the state with the largest immigrant population — with close to 11 million foreign-born residents — California has the most to lose if the new regulations are enacted.
“We are going to fight against this rule in court not just because it is the right thing to do,” he said, “but because it is an economic imperative to do,” adding that the state was prepared to go “every step of the way” to protect immigrant families that are seen as the backbone and future of the state. Roughly half of all children in California have an immigrant parent, Becerra noted.
In the meantime, the attorney general urged residents to “know the facts and know your rights,” insisting that those concerned seek out help from the many agencies and organizations working on immigration issues before going to private attorneys. He also implored religious leaders to soothe their community’s fears and act as resources. “Let’s not let folks panic,” he said.
The new rule broadly changes criteria the Department of Homeland Security uses to evaluate green card applicants, making it harder for those who came to the U.S. legally to stay if they seek out or are likely to use benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, or Section 8 vouchers for housing.
‘Reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency’
The Trump administration characterizes the rule change as an extension of current immigration law, and an increased effort to encourage “self-reliance” among residents of the United States
“Through the public charge rule, President Trump’s administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America,” acting Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ken Cuccinelli said in a news conference about the change on Monday.
In California, officials said the move was a scare tactic to discourage participation public programs across the country. Though the changes aren’t scheduled to go into effect until Oct. 15, Newsom said they have already had an impact on immigrants who are legally entitled to those services, but who are shying away from them over fears that it could affect their ability to remain in the country.
“The whole point of this is fear,” the Democratic governor said, adding that the state has seen signs of decline in those seeking services and support they are entitled to.
The governor cast the new policy as in line with policies that separate migrant parents from their children at the U.S. border, families who must choose between ensuring their children have enough food and their desire to stay together in the US. “At the end of the day, it is a mother deciding whether or not to get benefits for her child or being separated from that child,” he said.
Saying the new rule was a “punch to the gut,” Newsom compared the policy to racist ones of the past, like the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited the immigration of Chinese workers starting in the late 1800s and continuing for decades.
“Here we are generations later, having gone through that moment of extreme bigotry,” he said.