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Judge says Trump’s immigrant wealth test is ‘repugnant,’ blocks its enforcement

A new Homeland Security rule to screen out immigrants who are at risk of becoming dependent on government benefits was put on hold by a federal judge until there’s a final decision whether the so-called green card wealth test is legal.

US District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan said Friday that the rule, which was set to go into effect Oct. 15, can’t be implemented nationwide.

The rule, announced in August, replaces a current policy that says immigrants shouldn’t receive more than half their income from cash benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income from Social Security.


Under the new more expansive definition, immigrants aren’t supposed to use public benefits like Medicaid, public housing assistance, or food stamps for more than 12 months over a 36-month period. Immigration officials will consider an immigrant’s age, health, education, and wealth to see if they are at risk of becoming a “public charge.”

Immigrant rights’ advocacy groups and several states have argued that the new rule conflicts with existing immigration laws and would drive up the cost of providing health care and other services to immigrants.

Daniels blocked the rule following a. August lawsuit filed by the states of New York, Connecticut and Vermont and the city of New York, which alleged that the policy specifically targets immigrants of color. He ruled that the Department of Homeland Security went beyond its authority under federal immigration law.

“Defendants do not articulate why they are changing the public charge definition, why this new definition is needed now, or why the definition set forth in the rule — which has absolutely no support in the histroy of U.S. Immigration law — is reasonable,” Daniels said, calling the rule “repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility.”


A federal judge in Oakland, Calif., is expected to rule soon on other legal challenges to the wealth test.

The New York case is State of New York v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 19-cv-07777, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The California case is City and County of San Francisco v. Department of Homeland Security, 3:19-cv-4717, U.S. District Court, Northern District (Oakland).

(Updates with judge’s reasoning in seventh paragraph.)