RICHMOND, VA, December 10, 2018—Attorney General Mark R. Herring is leading a coalition of attorneys general and attorneys general-elect opposing President Trump’s latest effort to attack, demonize, and marginalize immigrants in Virginia and around the country. The Trump Administration has proposed a radical overhaul of so-called “public charge” rules that could make it easier to deny adjustment of status to lawful immigrants, reject green card applications, or even remove lawful immigrants from the country if they utilize certain healthcare, nutrition, or housing programs. The proposed rule could even force lawful immigrants to make an inhumane choice of whether to protect their lawful immigration status or risk it by accessing healthcare programs or other programs for which they are already eligible. Attorney General Herring and his colleagues filed official comments today, co-written by Herring and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, explaining why the rule is both unlawful and bad policy that would cause significant harm to Virginia and Virginia residents.
“Make no mistake about what this is: a barely concealed attempt by President Trump to reduce legal immigration and make lawful immigrants feel unwelcome. It’s the kind of unlawful, poorly-considered proposal you get when immigration policy is turned over to anti-immigrant zealots,” said Attorney General Herring. “This proposal would put lawful immigrants in the impossible position of choosing between their immigration status or their health and wellbeing, and would weaponize programs against some of the very communities they are designed to help. We’re going to keep working to protect all Virginians, including new Virginians, from the Trump Administration’s dangerous and discriminatory policies.”
So-called “public charge” rules have existed in immigration law for several decades. They have been understood to allow governments to deny entry to potential immigrants who are likely to become “primarily dependent” on public assistance.
The Trump Administration’s proposal would upend decades of established practice and make lawful immigration much more difficult by:
1) Greatly expanding the scope of services that can be considered in determining whether someone is likely to be “primarily dependent” on public assistance to include Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and housing assistance;
2) Significantly lowering the threshold for declaring someone a likely “public charge” to as low as $150 per month; and,
3) Potentially exposing immigrant children to being labeled a “public charge” if they are enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Once a lawful immigrant has been labeled a “public charge,” he or she may be unable to successfully apply for a green card or adjust immigration status, and may even be removed from the country.
In their comments, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that the proposed changes will be “destabilizing, discriminatory, and will cause harm to immigration populations and to the States,” particularly in regards to healthcare costs, which can be expected to climb as immigrants avoid healthcare programs like Medicaid and instead seek expensive emergency care. The proposed rule would also discriminate against people with disabilities and non-English speakers.
In addition to being bad public policy, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues believe that the proposed rule violates federal law because the Trump Administration has not presented appropriate evidence or analysis to justify the radical changes it has proposed. The proposed rule also violates Executive Orders governing the issuance of new regulations.
Joining Attorney General Herring in submitting today’s comments are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the attorneys general-elect of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, and New York.