Santa Clara County, San Francisco seek injunction blocking public charge rule | News | Palo Alto Online |

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Santa Clara County, San Francisco seek injunction blocking public charge rule

Counties claim new rule will discourage legal immigrants from obtaining needed services

Santa Clara County and the city and county of San Francisco asked a federal judge Wednesday for a preliminary injunction blocking a so-called "public charge" rule that would make it harder for low-income legal immigrants to remain in the United States.

California and three other states filed a similar request on Tuesday in a separate but related lawsuit lodged against the administration of President Donald Trump earlier this month.

Both motions will be heard by U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in Oakland on Oct. 2. The new rule is due to take effect on Oct. 15.

The rule would require immigration officials to consider whether legal immigrants seeking visa extensions or permanent residency may be a "public charge" because they have obtained or are likely to obtain government aid for food, housing or health care.

A federal immigration law allows officials to deny visa extensions or permanent residency to legal immigrants who may become a "public charge."

San Francisco and Santa Clara County say in their filing that since 1882, the federal government has interpreted that measure to apply only to legal immigrants who depend primarily on government aid for survival by receiving cash welfare payments or institutional care.

The new rule would also apply to legal immigrants who have received even small amounts of assistance through Medicaid, food stamps or housing aid.

The two local governments say in the motion that the rule would "wreak havoc on the counties' health and safety-net systems, the public health of their communities and their economies."

They argue the rule will discourage legal immigrants from obtaining needed services, shift health costs to local emergency services, and increase the risk of infectious diseases.

In announcing the new rule on Aug. 12, acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli said it is intended to promote American ideals of "self-reliance, industriousness, and perseverance."

San Francisco and Santa Clara County filed their lawsuit on Aug. 13 and California, Maine, Oregon and Pennsylvania together with the District of Columbia filed their case on Aug. 16.

Both lawsuits contend the new rule violates federal immigration law as well as a federal administrative law that requires a reasoned explanation for a policy change.

The dispute concerns legal immigrants; undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal benefits.

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