New York Judge Blocks ‘Public-Charge’ Rule, Again



U.S. District Judge George Daniels clearly has a thing about the Trump administration’s public charge rule for immigrants.

For the second time in less than a year, Daniels knocked down administration efforts to strengthen the rules. Though his judicial district is confined to Manhattan, Daniels’s decision will affect public charge policy nationally.

Under the revised definition, any non-U.S. citizen who receives government assistance such as food stamps, public housing vouchers, Medicaid or welfare payments for 12 months or more over a three-year period can be considered a public charge ineligible for legal presence in the country.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began applying the new rule in late February. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the agency made an exception for people seeking medical help related to COVID-19.

That wasn’t nearly good enough for Judge Daniels.

In a spasm of expansive speculation, he opined, “There is a question of whether [the rule]should be applied to future deadly plagues, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or other natural and manmade disasters that threaten the health and safety of citizens and immigrants alike, through no fault of their own.”

Daniels then went back to block a 2018 State Department rule requiring foreigners applying for immigrant visas to have “approved health insurance” to avoid a public charge designation. The micromanaging judge objected, saying the government’s accepted insurance plans may “not actually provide comprehensive coverage.” Harrumph!

The Bill Clinton appointee attempted to halt the public charge rule last year, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the administration’s position in January. Daniels now asserts that coronavirus changed everything, providing the justification for his latest injunctions.

The judge’s “blistering decisions” were enthusiastically reported by National Public Radio and other like-minded news organizations. As FAIR observed about coverage of the public charge issue, mainstream media outlets lard their stories with comments from Democratic politicians, pro-illegal alien activists and ethnic advocacy groups to distort the administration’s position and all but dismiss the public interest.

Daniels’ ongoing campaign against public charge reform illustrates how one district judge can dictate (and muddle) U.S. immigration policy. If, as Daniels contends, coronavirus is a national emergency that demands judicial intervention on public charge cases, the American public should expect higher courts to move expeditiously to affirm or reject his contentions.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

FAIR blogs can now be found on our main site at https://www.fairus.org/blog