AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
Case Advances Against Trump State Dept’s Unlawful “Public Charge” Policies
Our filing follows the court’s decision last September rejecting the Trump administration’s attempt to dismiss the case and concluding that President Trump’s many offensive comments about immigrants “plausibly constitute prejudice” that motivated the drastic upending of longstanding U.S. immigration policy. The motion for summary judgment was filed on May 15, 2020. The case now seeks to invalidate both the 2018 FAM change and the 2019 Interim Final Rule.
In January 2018, the Trump Administration made an unlawful, under-the-radar change to the State Department’s definition of “public charge,” a provision in immigration law that limits who may come to the United States. Specifically, the State Department amended the Foreign Affairs Manual to allow consular officers to consider whether visa applicants or their family members, including their U.S. citizen family members, have received non-cash benefits. Non-cash benefits include essential public programs like free school lunches, public health vaccinations, and Head Start. The State Department provided no prior notice of this change, nor any explanation for why it decided to deviate from the decades-old definition of public charge which explicitly prohibited consular officers from considering the use of such programs. We’re suing in partnership with the City of Baltimore.
The Trump Administration’s attempts to expand the meaning of public charge deter immigrants and their families from using programs for which they’re legally eligible. The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a similar proposed rule regarding public charge and solicited public comment. In that rule, the Department expressly acknowledged that families and cities will be hurt by these changes–facing higher rates of communicable diseases, malnourished infants, and poverty and homelessness. Yet despite the significance of these policy changes, the Trump Administration nonetheless decided to implement the State Department policy without any serious consideration of its effects, or opportunity for public comment.
We partnered with Baltimore to file a lawsuit defending immigrants against the Trump Administration’s attacks. Baltimore and its residents have already begun to feel the impact. To offer just one example, enrollment in the city’s Head Start program has virtually ceased among the city’s African immigrant population since the start of the 2018 school year. Our lawsuit explains that the State Department change was motivated by the Trump Administration’s well-known hostility towards certain immigrant groups—most notably Hispanic, Asian, and African communities—and violated the federal laws governing administrative agencies, including the Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection. We’re asking the Court to declare the changes void and require consular officers to consider visa applications using the previous criteria.
The government must respond to our lawsuit in the coming months.
November 28, 2018
We filed suit, alleging that the State Department’s attempt to expand the meaning of public charge is unlawful.
February 25, 2019
Trump administration moves to dismiss our lawsuit
The filing acknowledged that State’s public charge change could result in more visa rejections: “It is true that application of the new guidance, compared to the earlier guidance, could potentially lead to individuals being denied visas on 'public charge' grounds more frequently.” Forbes: New Data Reveal State Department Visa Denials Surged In 2018Learn More
February 27, 2019
New data shows that visa denials increased more than 300% after State’s unlawful public charge policy was implemented
FY2018 visa statistics show that the Department initially rejected 13,450 immigrant visa applicants as inadmissible on public charge grounds. This represents a 316 percent increase from 2017, when 3,237 immigrant visas were initially denied on public charge grounds. ABC News: Trump administration to deny more visa applicants who've used public assistanceLearn More
March 15, 2019
Baltimore files opposition spotlighting the new data demonstrating harmLearn More
March 22, 2019
In Four “Friend of the Court” Briefs, Supporters Detail Harms Caused by Trump Administration's Unlawful Change to Immigration Policy
A coalition of 19 states, 17 cities and counties, 10 civil rights organizations, and five Maryland immigrant advocates laid out the many different harms caused by this unlawful and discriminatory change to the definition of public charge, which range from rising costs for states and local governments to families refusing to seek medical or food assistance for which they are eligible out of fear that they, or a loved one, would be denied a visa under the new policy.Learn More
In the news
AP News / November 28, 2018
CNN / November 28, 2018
AP / November 28, 2018
- Complaint As Filed (pdf / 901 KB)
- Motion for Stay (pdf / 139 KB)
- Opposition to Stay (pdf / 195 KB)
- Order Denying Stay (pdf / 42 KB)
- Motion to Dismiss (pdf / 375 KB)
- State Amicus (pdf / 450 KB)
- Cities and Counties Amicus (pdf / 288 KB)
- Civil Rights Amicus (pdf / 122 KB)
- Maryland Organizations Amicus (pdf / 241 KB)
- Opposition to Motion to Dismiss (pdf / 620 KB)
- Government's Reply (pdf / 255 KB)