Baltimore, MD – Wednesday night, a federal district court in Maryland denied the Department of Justice’s motion to stay a challenge brought by the City of Baltimore to changes the State Department made to expand the “public charge” inadmissibility ground in the Foreign Affairs Manual. The administration sought to stay the case for the duration of the partial government shutdown. The court rejected the government’s motion “in light of the potential harm” posed to Baltimore and its residents. Baltimore and its co-counsel Democracy Forward issued the following joint statement:
“The Trump Administration’s unlawful policy change deters Baltimore residents from accessing critical and potentially life-saving benefits, such as public health vaccinations, early childhood education, and nutrition programs, to which they are entitled. Delaying this case would only have exacerbated those harms. We look forward to presenting our arguments to the court and are pleased that the case will continue moving forward on schedule.”
Background: In November 2018, the Baltimore City Solicitor, and its co-counsel Democracy Forward, filed suit against the Trump Administration challenging the State Department’s unlawful changes to the “public charge” ground of inadmissibility.
Specifically, in January 2018, the State Department amended its Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”) to require consular officers to evaluate whether visa applicants, their family members, including their U.S. citizen family members, or their sponsors have received non-cash benefits. In executing this change, the State Department unlawfully reversed decades of policy which prohibited consular officers from considering such benefits.
The change was motivated by the Trump Administration’s well-known hostility towards certain immigrant groups — most notably Hispanic, Asian, and African communities — and is a violation of the federal laws governing administrative agencies, including the Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection.
The Trump Administration recently sought to stay the proceedings, citing the government shutdown. On January 16, 2019, Baltimore opposed the government’s motion to stay the case. In its opposition, Baltimore explained: “Every day the FAM changes remain in effect does considerable harm to Baltimore by deterring its residents and their families from accepting the federal, state, and local benefits to which they are entitled . . . . Staying this litigation pending the end of the government shutdown – a problem internal to the Defendants and lacking a known or knowable end date – will only compound the injury to Baltimore.”
The court cited Baltimore’s argument in its order, stating:
According to the City, the change to the Foreign Affairs Manual poses significant ramifications to the health and well-being of the residents of Baltimore . . . . In light of the potential harm, I shall deny the government’s motion.
The case will now continue as scheduled.