A federal judge stopped the Trump administration on Wednesday from moving forward with plans to deny green cards for immigrants who received Medicaid, food stamps or household vouchers, even on a limited basis – a test of wealth that several states, led by New York, were sued during the coronavirus pandemic.
Judge George B. Daniels of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan has been granted a temporary injunction at the national level, suspending the eligibility requirements introduced last year and set out various legal challenges, including before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled in January that the Trump administration could move forward with the plan, but that was before the pandemic.
In the past, green card applicants who relied on social services as their main means of financial support or were institutionalized could be deprived of permanent residence under what is known as the “public payment” rule. “. But less than 1 percent of applicants had previously been disqualified for public payment reasons.
President Trump has sought an expansion of requirements, but critics have argued that they could have a chilling effect for legal immigrants who needed medical treatment or financial aid during the pandemic.
Judge Daniels wrote that the policy “fails to measure up to the severity of this global pandemic that continues to threaten the lives and economic well-being of America’s residents.”
“No one should be reluctant to seek medical care, nor should they suffer punishment or punishment if they seek temporary financial assistance as a result of the impact of the pandemic,” he wrote.
It was the latest immigration conflict between Democrats and the Trump administration, which hampered the Supreme Court last month from ending a program that protects about 700,000 young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation. This month, the administration came up with a plan to remove visas from international students who only took online classes.
“This is a great victory to protect the health of our communities across New York and the entire nation,” Attorney General Letitia James of New York, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday night.
Plaintiffs included New York City, Connecticut and Vermont.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said in an interview Wednesday night that he expects the Trump administration to appeal the decision.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that the president plans to continue his war against immigrants as long as he is the president,” Mr Tong said.
Mr Tong said applicants for green cards had given up trips to the doctor or applied for food stamps to avoid being penalized.
“This is a great victory for the rule of law and for justice and public health,” he said. “This is about how completely unsafe and insane it is to try to discourage people from seeking treatment for Covid or any other condition in the midst of a pandemic.”