Posted on August 15, 2019

San Francisco, Santa Clara County File Suit to Block Rule on Green Cards

Alicia A. Caldwell, Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2019

San Francisco and neighboring Santa Clara County filed suit against the Trump administration, challenging the government’s move to deny permanent residence to legal immigrants who use certain public-assistance programs or bar entry for those deemed likely to do so.

The plaintiffs say in their 23-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, that the rule changing the definition of who might become a “public charge” under federal immigration law is “not only harmful; it is also unlawful.”


Under the new rule, the use or potential use of programs such as Medicaid, some types of housing assistance or food stamps could disqualify an immigrant from getting a green card, which permits legal permanent residence, or being allowed into the U.S. in the first place.

More than one million residents of the two California counties were born outside the U.S., according to U.S. Census data reviewed by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank that studies immigration.

The 873-page rule won’t be applied retroactively, so it won’t affect the status of an immigrant who has used some benefits in the past, but it could affect those who apply to change their status in the future.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said in the lawsuit that the change will “worsen the health and well-being of the counties’ residents, increase risks to the public health, undermine the counties’ health and safety-net systems, and inflict significant financial harm on the counties.”