Sun | Apr 5, 2020

US judges block green card denials for immigrants on public aid

Published:Sunday | October 13, 2019 | 3:41 PM
In this January 31, 2019, file photo, hundreds of people overflow onto the sidewalk in a line snaking around the block outside a U.S. immigration office with numerous courtrooms in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal judges in three states on Friday temporarily blocked Donald Trump’s policy to deny green cards to many immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps and other government benefits, dealing a setback to one of the president’s most aggressive moves yet to cut legal immigration and make it more based on employment skills than family ties.

The rulings in California, New York and Washington came in quick succession four days before the new rules were set to take effect.

The judges ruled in favour of 21 states and the District of Columbia, which challenged the policy almost immediately after it was announced in August.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels in New York said the policy redefined longstanding immigration laws with a new framework that had “no logic.”

Allowing the policy to go into effect now, he said, would have a significant impact on “law-abiding residents who have come to this country to seek a better life.”

“Overnight, the rule will expose individuals to economic insecurity, health instability, denial of their path to citizenship and potential deportation,” Daniels wrote. “It is a rule that will punish individuals for their receipt of benefits provided by our government, and discourages them from lawfully receiving available assistance intended to aid them in becoming contributing members of society.”

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, expressed confidence that the administration would eventually prevail and framed the policy as a legal attempt to ensure that those who settle in the United States can support themselves financially.

“An objective judiciary will see that this rule lies squarely within long-held existing law,” Cuccinelli wrote on Twitter.

“Long-standing federal law requires aliens to rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their families, sponsors, and private organisations in their communities to succeed.”

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham added that the rulings were “extremely disappointing” and “the latest inexplicable example of the administration being ordered to comply with the flawed or lawless guidance of a previous administration instead of the actual laws passed by Congress.”

Just last week, Trump issued a presidential proclamation that says immigrants will be barred from the country unless they are covered by health insurance within 30 days of entering or have enough financial resources to pay for any medical costs.

The measure, which is scheduled to take effect Nov. 3, could prohibit the entry of about 375,000 people a year, mainly family members who account for a majority of people getting green cards from abroad, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

Friday’s rulings put the policy to deny green cards to more immigrants on government aid on hold while lawsuits proceed.

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