In an opinion Friday, Judge Daniels preliminarily enjoined a new regulation that would change the framework for determining when those applying for legal residency are denied admission as a “public charge.” The new proposed rule would have focused on whether the applicant was likely to receive 12 months of public benefits within 36 months. Judge Daniels concluded that the rule, which was set to go into effect on October 15, was arbitrary, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act:
“[P]ublic charge” has never been interpreted as so one “who receives one or more public benefits … for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.” This new definition essentially changes the public charge assessment into a benefits issue, rather than an inquiry about self-subsistence, such that any individual who is deemed likely to accept a benefit is considered a public charge. Receipt of a benefit, however, does not necessarily indicate that the individual is unable to support herself. One could envision, for example, a scenario where an individual is fully capable supporting herself without government assistance but elects to accept a benefit, such as public housing, simply because she is entitled to it. Under the Rule, although this individual is legally entitled to public housing, if she takes advantage of this right, she may be penalized with denial of adjustment of status. There is no logic to this framework.
Judge Daniels added that the rule was “repugnant to the American Dream”:
In short, Defendants do not articulate why they are changing the public charge definition, why this new definition is needed now, or why the definition set forth in the Rule — which has absolutely no support in the history of U.S. immigration law — is reasonable. The Rule is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification. It is repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work an upward mobility. Immigrants have always come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their posterity. With or without help, most succeed.
At least two other judges issued similar rulings, as the New York Times explains here.