Credit: Gage Skidmore

New York federal judge blocks Trump’s “wealth test” for green cards

The “public charge” rule, which discouraged immigrants from seeking benefits, has been temporarily blocked. Until now, green card applicants, including immigrant entrepreneurs who temporarily used social services, such as Medicaid, could be disqualified. 

This week, Judge George Daniels of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan blocked the Trump administration from moving forward with plans to deny permanent residence to immigrants who have received Medicaid or other specific benefits.

Daniels ordered the rule void for immigrants with legal status in the U.S. for the duration of the health crisis. “No person should hesitate to seek medical care, nor should they endure punishment or penalty if they seek temporary financial aid as a result of the pandemic’s impact,” he wrote.

The eligibility requirements were introduced last year and have drawn several legal challenges. But the so-called “wealth test” was challenged by New York and other states that sued the Trump administration.

“The Court rightly recognized how severely the rule continues to harm immigrant communities — many of whom are working on the frontlines of this public health crisis — and hinders our efforts to address the devastating health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Commissioner Bitta Mostofi in a statement from the NYC Mayor’s office on immigrant affairs. “It is a matter of life or death that all New Yorkers in need of medical care, food assistance, and other benefits and services seek and receive the help they need without fear.”

COVID-19 relief packages, such as SBA loans that provide funding for small businesses, including those owned by immigrant entrepreneurs, were exempt. These loans are not considered a “benefit” under the “public charge” rule, and they are also granted to companies rather than to individuals.

Lawyers and other experts, however, expect the Trump administration to appeal the ruling. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the president plans to continue his war on immigrants as long as he’s president,” attorney General William Tong of Connecticut said in an interview.

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