MD joins lawsuit over ‘public charge’ immigration rule; Young calls policy ‘anti-immigrant’

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Photo by J.M. Giordano.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young today slammed the final version of a Department of Homeland Security rule that would make it harder for immigrants to be admitted to the United States if they receive public assistance, saying the policy adversely affects people of color and is “anti-immigrant.”

In addition to increasing the number of visas that are denied, Young said the “public charge” rule, as it’s known, also influences immigrants who are already here to avoid seeking public assistance in the form of food stamps, Medicare and housing subsidies for fear that they or a family member might be deported.

“This public charge policy harms Baltimore,” the mayor said in a statement. “When some members of our community are driven into the shadows, the greater community is also harmed: public health, public safety, our culture and our economy all suffer.”

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh yesterday joined 12 other state prosecutors in suing the Trump administration over the policy, due to take effect in October.

On Twitter this morning, Frosh said the rule is “un-American” and could even affect people who are here legally.

“Children and families will suffer from lack of adequate meals, healthcare, even shelter,” he said.

Last year, the city sued the Trump administration over a change to the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, which provides guidance about who can travel into the country, that broadened the definition of “public charge” to include Section 8 and public housing, Medicare and food assistance.

Young’s office today cited an ABC News story that reported visa denials have gone up 40 percent over the last two fiscal years, and a Politico story that shows 5,343 Mexican nationals–up from seven in fiscal year 2016–were denied visas between October of last year and July on the grounds they were too poor and likely to become “public charges.”

Democracy Forward, a nonprofit legal advocacy group that joined the city on the lawsuit, last week declared that the Politico analysis of State Department data backs the parties’ claim that the rule change unlawfully targeted people of color and deterred foreign-born residents from seeking aide to which they are legally entitled.

“These figures provide more evidence of what has long been clear: this Trump administration attack on communities of color, including immigrant communities, is rooted in racism, is unlawful, and is hurting even more people than we previously knew,” Democracy Forward’s executive director, Anne Harkavy, said in a statement.

In today’s announcement from Young, City Solicitor Andre Davis painted the legal battle as a David vs. Goliath fight, with “resource strapped City challenging the behemoth federal government.”

But, he said, there is widespread support for it, citing “friend of the court briefs” filed by 19 states, 17 cities and counties, 10 civil rights organizations and five Maryland immigrant advocates.

Davis said he hopes a motion by the federal government to throw out the case is denied.

The city has resisted Trump’s efforts to clamp down on immigrants in other ways. Earlier this month, in the face of reported raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Young signed an executive order directing city personnel not to “act or advise against any individual based on actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status.”

The Baltimore Police Department has a similar policy to not cooperate with ICE raids.

Brandon Weigel

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