Five attorneys general filed a lawsuit Friday challenging a new federal rule they say targets working immigrants and their families by creating unnecessary new barriers to lawful admission to the United States. The rule potentially affects older adults and their caregivers, according to one advocacy group.
The lawsuit from the attorneys general for California, Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia follows other legal action filed last week by 13 other states and two California counties trying to stop the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule from being implemented beginning in October. An additional lawsuit, from 13 immigrant advocacy and legal groups, also was filed Friday.
The rule, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said at the Aug. 12 press briefing at which it was announced, “encourages and ensures self-reliance and self-sufficiency for those seeking to come to, or to stay in, the United States” by denying green cards to those who receive public benefits such as food assistance, Medicaid or subsidized housing.
Formerly, a “public charge” was defined as a person who primarily depended on either public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutional long-term care at the government’s expense, the attorneys general said.
“These changes would discourage many immigrants and mixed immigration-status families, who are not otherwise subject to the rule, from accessing benefits for which they are eligible and entitled,” said a press release from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “It will also make it harder for hard-working, low and moderate-income immigrants to be admitted into the United States or get green cards.”
Among claims made in the lawsuit, the attorneys general argued that the rule violates the Equal Protection Guarantee of the Fifth Amendment because it disproportionately will affect non-white, non-European people from Asia, Latin America and Africa.
James Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging, said the rule could harm older adults in the United States regardless of whether they are immigrants.
“Immigrant seniors who have played by the rules will have to make an impossible choice between going hungry and avoiding needed long-term care support or losing their immigration status,” he said. A wide range of older adult immigrants may not seek healthcare, nutrition and housing programs that enable them to live independently and with dignity, Firman added.
“This change also will affect the thousands of older adults and caregivers who rely on home healthcare,” he said, pointing out that 25% of home health aides are immigrants.