New Data Shows that Visa Denials Increased More Than 300% After State Department’s Unlawful ‘Public Charge’ Policy

City of Baltimore and Democracy Forward File Opposition to the Trump Administration’s Motion to Dismiss the Case

Baltimore, MD—  Today, the City of Baltimore and its co-counsel Democracy Forward filed a brief opposing the Trump administration’s attempt to dismiss their lawsuitchallenging the State Department’s change to immigration policy. In January 2018, the Trump administration sought to limit immigration to the United States by expanding the definition of who may be considered a likely “public charge” when denying visa applications. According to recently-released State Department data, immigrant visa denials skyrocketed four times higher after the change was implemented.

The lawsuit filed by Baltimore and Democracy Forward alleges that the immigration policy change was motivated by the administration’s well-known hostility toward immigrants, especially immigrants of color. The policy violates the federal laws governing administrative agencies, including the Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection. President Trump’s animus toward immigrants was on display again last week when he used an interview with Breitbart News to again promote his biased view that immigrants are a drain on public resources: “I don’t want to have anyone coming in that’s on welfare” and “we’re not allowing it.”

“Baltimore welcomes immigrants as integral members of our growing, vibrant city, whose best days lie ahead. The anti-immigrant FAM change not only harms Baltimore but it violates fundamental principles of justice embodied in federal law as we claim in our suit,” stated Solicitor Andre M. Davis.

“The State Department’s change was cut from the same cloth as the President’s hateful stereotypes about immigrants,”said Democracy Forward Counsel John Lewis. “This attempt to discriminate against and harm immigrant families is illegal and must be stopped.”

In January 2018, the State Department amended the Foreign Affairs Manual to expand the definition of “public charge,” allowing consular officers to consider whether visa applicants, their family members—including U.S. citizen family members—or their sponsors have received a wide range of non-cash benefits, including vaccinations, Head Start, and free school lunches. The State Department illegally executed this change behind closed doors and provided no explanation for why it deviated from the longstanding definition of public charge—one which had, for decades, explicitly prohibited consular officers from considering the use of such programs.

Since the enactment of the State Department’s expanded public charge definition, FY2018 visa statistics show that the Department initially rejected 13,450 immigrant visas. This represents a 316 percent increase from 2017, when only 3,237 immigrant visas were initially denied on public charge grounds.

The opposition to the government’s motion to dismiss was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.


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