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Federal Judge In Chicago Blocks Change To Public Charge Rule

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A shopper uses a LINK food assistance card to shop at a Chicago grocery store in 2008.

A shopper uses a LINK food assistance card to shop at a Chicago grocery store in 2008.

AP Photo/Paul Beaty

A federal judge in Chicago issued a temporary injunction Monday night blocking President Trump’s change to the public charge rule. Federal judges in three other states issued similar rulings on Friday.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman provided a long legal explanation for his decision, writing that “this case has important policy implications, and the competing policy views held by parties ... but let there be no mistake: The court’s decision today rests not one bit on policy.” Feinerman continued by clearly identifying his role in this argument. “It is Congress’s job to enact policy and it is this Court’s job to follow the policy Congress has prescribed,” he wrote.

The legal challenge came from Cook County government and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). The Shriver Center represented ICIRR in the lawsuit.

“Justice prevailed today,” Militza Pagan, an attorney with the Shriver Center, said in a written statement. Pagan said it was important to stop the chilling effect this change in the rule has had in the immigrant community.

“The public charge rule change would have imposed real and irreparable harm to Cook County and the people who call it home,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, in a statement released late Monday night. “No one should live in fear and forgo public resources to access food, housing, and health care. I’m grateful to the women and men of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and our partners in this suit for their commitment to stand up to these discriminatory attacks.”

The rule change was announced in August by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The definition of “public charge” was expanded by the Trump administration to make it more difficult for some poor immigrants to be granted legal permanent residency status. The rule change would bar immigrants who have received government assistance like food stamps, housing vouchers or Medicaid — or immigrants who might receive those benefits in the future — from obtaining legal status.

On Friday, federal judges in California, New York and Washington also issued temporary injunctions blocking the change to the public charge rule. In those cases, plaintiffs argued that the new regulation would discriminate against low-income immigrants coming from developing countries. They also argued that the rule undermines the well-being of children whose families would avoid using food stamps and health care programs.

In their lawsuit, Cook County and ICIRR argued that the Trump administration’s change of the definition of “public charge” would “undermine our national identity, contravene the law, and discriminate against racial minorities and people with disabilities.”

As a result; the group’s mission to “help immigrants become full and contributing members of society, and further directly harms ICIRR.”

At least five amicus briefs were filed by several organizations supporting the plaintiff’s argument.

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