It is encouraging that state Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday announced New York is joining three other states in a lawsuit against the Trump administration over a new, stricter interpretation of the “public charge rule,” which could deny green cards to legal immigrants who need certain forms of public assistance.
Under the administration’s policy change, announced earlier this month, legal immigrants who use or require public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance could have a more difficult time obtaining a green card. This is an unfair and deficient regulation.
The new criteria for “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” in the words of the administration, will set new standards for applicants seeking legal permanent residency in the United States, criteria that will skew the process in favor of highly skilled, high-income immigrants. In short, it is another Trump program that favors the wealthy over the truly needy.
Under the new interpretation, wealth, education, age and English-language skills will assume greater significance in the green card review process. U.S. immigration law has long-standing provisions to screen out foreigners who might be a burden on society, but the rule change amounts to an expansion of the government’s definition of “public charge” — and who is deemed likely to become one. It amounts to a pre-emptive strike against immigrants seeking better lives in America.
As presented by the Trump administration, the public charge rule is a game-rigging scheme to punish immigrants who, like generations of immigrant families before them, seek support to lift their children out of poverty. This means access to doctors, healthy food and safe housing. Food, medical care and shelter are basic needs for modern life, and they should not be subject to governmental manipulation.