Fight Against New Public Charge Rule Continues In Illinois

Militza Pagan at federal courthouse after public charge hearing
Militza Pagan, an attorney with the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, speaks during a press conference Wednesday morning following a court hearing about the Trump Administration's expanded public charge rule, which took effect in Illinois this week. Immigration advocates are arguing in support of a temporary injunction blocking the new rule's implementation in Illinois. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that injunction. Maria Ines Zamudio / WBEZ News
Militza Pagan at federal courthouse after public charge hearing
Militza Pagan, an attorney with the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, speaks during a press conference Wednesday morning following a court hearing about the Trump Administration's expanded public charge rule, which took effect in Illinois this week. Immigration advocates are arguing in support of a temporary injunction blocking the new rule's implementation in Illinois. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that injunction. Maria Ines Zamudio / WBEZ News

Fight Against New Public Charge Rule Continues In Illinois

A panel of federal judges will determine the fate of a temporary injunction issued in October that, until this week, blocked the Trump administration from expanding the public charge rule in Illinois.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the federal government’s request to enforce a new public charge rule. The new rule would disqualify immigrants from obtaining a green card or a visa if the government believes the person will use any of a variety of forms of public assistance. But Illinois had a separate injunction that blocked implementation of the new rule until last week when the U.S. Supreme Court stuck it down, too.

In a scheduled hearing on Wednesday, the plaintiffs who filed that temporary injunction, including Cook County government and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), argued that it should remain in place.

The panel of three judges is expected to make their ruling in the next couple of weeks. Until then, the new public charge rule is in full effect in Illinois.

After Wednesday’s hearing, speakers from several immigration advocates and others denounced the new public charge rule and described how it has impacted immigrant communities.

“This is an attack on people of color and low-income families,” said Militza Pagan, an attorney with the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, which is representing the plaintiffs. “The Trump Administration has radically and dramatically changed the rules to make it harder for people who are not wealthy to emigrate to or remain in the U.S.”

Pagan stood in front of a group of pro-immigrant groups including, the ICIRR, the HANA Center, and Access Living, among others.

“I work directly with community members daily who are struggling with basic needs and their basic needs are being compromised because of this public charge rule,” said Nancy Kim Kang, director of public benefits at the HANA Center.

Kim Kang described how a legal permanent resident, who is at risk of losing his eye due to complications to diabetes, refused to renew his Medicaid out of fear the public assistance would get in the way of a family member obtaining a green card.

“Our immigrant community is jeopardizing and compromising the health of themselves and their families because of the fear of public charge,” Kim Kang said. “ This is wrong.”

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, whose office filed the lawsuit with the Shriver Center, said her office would not back down and would continue fighting to stop the implementation of the new rule.

“We will continue to fight for the merits of this injunction and challenge the Trump Administration’s implementation of discriminatory policies, which threaten to harm the public health and economic well-being of Cook County, as a whole,” Foxx said.

In August, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it would implement an expanded public charge rule. The new rule makes 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.

María Ines Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.