Santa Clara County has joined a host of local governments and several states in suing to block the Trump administration’s so-called “public charge” rule, which imposes major roadblocks on the path to citizenship.
“The Trump administration’s new rule is an unlawful, foolish attack on immigrant communities,” County Counsel James Williams said in announcing the legal challenge. “It will hurt all members of our communities by reducing access to critical health and safety-net services that create healthier communities for all of our residents.”
The federal policy unveiled Monday bolsters ability of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deny green cards to legal immigrants if they have ever used public assistance such as Medicaid or food stamps. The new rule is set to go into effect Oct. 15.
Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli justified the policy by saying it ensures that immigrants can support themselves and reinforces the ideals of “self-sufficiency” and “personal ideals.”
But critics say the rule lacks any reasonable justification.
With the deadline for the rule’s enactment two months away, Silicon Valley politicians and immigrant advocacy groups have voiced fierce opposition to the impending policy. Penalizing legal immigrants for accessing public services will create a negative ripple effect on communities and destabilize families, civil rights groups cautioned.
“They [the DHS] acknowledged themselves that there will be an adverse impact,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) told San Jose Inside in a phone interview earlier this week.
Indeed, DHS acknowledged in a document that the rule could lead to “worse health outcomes,” “increased use of emergency rooms,” and “increased rates of poverty.” The agency predicts that 2.5 percent of immigrants participating in government benefit programs will stop using them.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo condemned the policy as inhumane.
“It is unconscionable to force immigrant families to choose between lawful status and food,” he declared in a statement to reporters earlier this week.
Immigrant-friendly lawmakers have launched a counter-attack, however.
The nonprofit Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN) is backing HR 3222, the so-called “No Federal Funds for Public Charge” bill, introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park). Should it become law, Chu’s proposal would restrict the DHS from using any federal funds to enforce the public charge rule.
“These are taxpaying immigrants that pay into these benefits,” SIREN Director Maricela Gutiérrez says. “We are talking to local members of Congress to support the legislation.”