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Paul, Weiss and Co-Counsel Block “Public Charge” Immigration Rules Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Paul, Weiss, alongside co-counsel from the Legal Aid Society, Center for Constitutional Rights and National Immigration Law Center, successfully obtained two orders temporarily blocking the Trump Administration’s nationwide enforcement of its “public charge” rules, which allow the federal government to deny admission and legal status to immigrants who are considered likely to receive public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers. N.Y. Attorney General Letitia James and Connecticut Attorney General William Tong joined in representing New York, Connecticut and Vermont and the city of New York in arguing that immigrants should not be deterred from accessing health care and government benefits and services, especially during this unprecedented health crisis.

In his ruling in federal district court in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge George Daniels issued two nationwide injunctions. In the first, the court enjoined the State Department from applying its “public charge” rules to immigrants entering the United States via the consular process. Judge Daniels further enjoined enforcement of the president’s “Health Care Proclamation,” which suspended the entry of immigrants who could not show that they would be covered by specified health insurance plans within 30 days of entry, thereby imposing a significant wealth tax on entry into the United States.

The second injunction, in a separate parallel case in which Paul, Weiss is also counsel, prevents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from enforcing the “public charge” rule during a declared national health emergency. The ruling adopted Paul, Weiss’s and co-counsel’s argument that the COVID-19 pandemic has made the DHS public charge rule lethal to immigrant communities by discouraging the use of health care and other benefits. In the same ruling, the court substantially denied the government’s motion to dismiss the complaint.

The U.S. Supreme Court on January 27 lifted Judge Daniel’s previous injunction preventing the DHS rule from going into effect pending arguments on the merits, allowing the law to take effect February 24, just before the coronavirus outbreak became a nationwide pandemic. But in his 31-page ruling, Daniels wrote that his temporary nationwide injunction was not in conflict with the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling, and concluded that it was within his “equitable discretion” to grant the relief based on dramatic public health developments that had made such a ruling “nothing short of critical.” Daniels wrote that “much has significantly changed” since the Supreme Court weighed in earlier this year, and actions taken by the federal government were not enough to ensure that immigrants, wary of federal immigration actions, would not be dissuaded from seeking medical care.

Paul, Weiss and co-counsel are representing Make the Road New York, African Services Committee, Asian American Federation, Catholic Charities Community Services (Archdiocese of New York) and Catholic Legal Immigration Network as organizational plaintiffs in these cases, as well as several individuals in the case challenging the State Department rules and the Health Care Proclamation.

The Paul, Weiss team includes litigation partner Andrew Ehrlich, counsel Jonathan Hurwitz and associates Elana Beale, Amy Bowles, Avery Burrell, Christopher Filburn, David Kimball-Stanley, Chloe Lewis, Robert O’Loughlin, Richard Medina, Daniel Myerson, Leah Park, Daniel Sinnreich, Hilary Udow and Brittney Xu

July 27, 2020

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