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Second Circuit Affirms Preliminary Injunction Against “Public Charge” Immigration Rule

Paul, Weiss and co-counsel The Legal Aid Society and the Center for Constitutional Rights, together with the N.Y. Attorney General, achieved a significant victory when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s granting of a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule. The rule allows 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. The rule was permitted to take effect in February 2020, after the U.S. Supreme Court stayed an October 2019 order by a Manhattan district court judge blocking the rule nationwide. The Second Circuit agreed that a preliminary injunction was warranted, but limited the scope from nationwide to just New York, Connecticut and Vermont.

In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel held that the rule is likely contrary to the immigration law set by Congress, and arbitrary and capricious. As the court noted: “Accepting help that is offered to elevate one to a higher standard of living, help that was created by Congress for that precise purpose, does not mean a person is not self-sufficient — particularly when such programs are available not just to persons living in abject poverty but to a broad swath of low- and moderate-income Americans, including those who are productively employed. DHS goes too far in assuming that all those who participate in non-cash benefits programs would be otherwise unable to meet their needs and that they can thus be categorically considered ‘public charges.’ Its unsupported and conclusory claim that receipt of such benefits indicates an inability to support oneself does not satisfy DHS’s obligation to explain its actions.”

On July 29, the same federal district court that blocked the rule in October 2019 again issued a nationwide injunction blocking the rule for the duration of the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. That decision followed successful argument by Paul, Weiss and co-counsel, along with state and city plaintiffs, that the rule has exacerbated the spread of the disease by deterring people from seeking needed health care and chilling the use of other benefits. The court also enjoined the Department of State from applying its parallel “public charge” rules, including the president’s Health Care Proclamation, to applicants for visas at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

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 the case.

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

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