Oregon Challenges Trump Administration’s “Public Charge Rule”

August 16, 2019
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Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Oregon Governor Kate Brown today joined four other states in filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) “Public Charge Rule”. The lawsuit claims the Rule targets working immigrants and their families who are in the United States legally with a visa or a green card, and creates unnecessary barriers to admission to the United States.

The “Public Charge Rule” states in part that if an immigrant who is legally in the United States accesses public food assistance, health care or housing benefits to support their children who are U.S. citizens, even for a temporary period of time, the federal government could revoke their legal status, green card, or threaten deportation. More than 250,000 immigrants work in Oregon, and 132,000 children covered by the Oregon Health Plan have at least one immigrant parent.

“Our nation’s greatness is enhanced by the contributions of our immigrants, and yet the federal government continues to attack this community. The Trump Administration’s Public Charge rule will force families to choose between basic services they legally qualify for, and need to thrive: access to health care, housing and putting food on the table. It’s wrong, and we won’t stand for it in Oregon,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

“This cruel new Rule punishes families for simply being immigrants. The Rule will hit children and families across our state who need food and medical assistance the most. Parents will be reluctant to access public health care for their children, or food benefits, for fear that their immigration status will be revoked. This is not the America we want—we want an America that takes care of each other, and values keeping families together. If this cruel Rule is allowed to go into effect, there will be harsh ripple effects throughout our communities,” said Attorney General Rosenblum.

The federal government defines a “public charge” as a person who is primarily dependent on either public cash assistance for income or institutional long-term care at the government’s expense. The new Rule states that use of government programs, including nutrition and food support through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and housing for families through Section 8 housing assistance program would constitute grounds for a “public charge” determination. The Rule allows the U.S. government to deny a visa or a permanent residency to any immigrant the federal government believes may use public benefits in the future, or has previously applied for benefits, even if the individual never accessed the benefits.

In the lawsuit, the Attorneys General argue that the Rule:

  • Violates the Equal Protection Guarantee of the Fifth Amendment: The Rule will disproportionately block admission of non-white, non-European immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and Africa. It will also prevent higher numbers of immigrants of color from extending their visas or becoming lawful permanent residents, and ultimately create more obstacles in the path to U.S. citizenship.
  • Arbitrary and Capricious: The Rule punishes immigrants for participating in widely used public benefits programs that are designed to mitigate economic inequality and bolster self-sufficiency, particularly among low wage workers. The Rule also fails to adequately assess the costs that increasing the poverty of families and U.S. citizen children will have on the Nation, its states, and communities.
  • Contrary to Law: The Rule is contrary to law, interferes with the states’ rights to protect their residents, and exceeds the Administration’s authority under federal immigration law by circumventing congressional intent.

A coalition of 13 states also filed a separate lawsuit August 14, 2019 over changes to the Rule.

In addition to Oregon, this lawsuit was joined by California, Maine, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.

The Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) is led by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, and serves as the state’s law firm. The Oregon DOJ advocates for and protects all Oregonians, especially the most vulnerable, such as children and seniors.