Last US-wide block on Trump immigrant policy under appeal

Washington D.C.

Dr. Jasmine Saavedra, left,, hands newborn Alondra Marquez to her mother, Esthela Nuñez, right, after examination Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Doctors and public health experts warn of poor health outcomes and rising costs they say will come from sweeping changes that would deny green cards to many immigrants who use Medicaid, as well as food stamps and other forms of public assistance. (AP Photo/Amr Alfiky)

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court is considering whether to lift the final nationwide temporary injunction against a Trump administration policy that would deny green cards to immigrants over their use of public benefits.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan heard arguments Tuesday over keeping or lifting the injunction issued in October by a federal district court in New York that prevented the policy from going into effect across the country while a lawsuit against it is proceeding.

A regional injunction issued in California and another national injunction issued in Washington have already been lifted by other federal appeals courts, leaving New York’s as the only impediment to the Trump administration using the new rule. An injunction in Illinois is in effect, but only applies to that state.

On Tuesday, the judicial panel pressed the government’s attorney on why the injunction needed to be lifted at this point when the lawsuit itself would be heard by a judge in the coming months, and when the current framework had been in place for many years.

“Has there been a declaration of emergency by the president or anyone else that says this has to come into place immediately?” Judge Guido Calabresi asked Justice Department attorney Daniel Tenny, to which he replied there hadn’t been.

The judges questioned the attorneys representing the states and nonprofits that had filed against the government policy over why there was a need for a nationwide injunction instead of a more localized one. And while the hearing’s scope didn’t include ruling on the merits of the rule itself, the judges did ask some questions touching on how much authority the executive branch had to issue its new regulations.

The panel didn’t rule on the injunction immediately, but said it would make a decision soon.

As it stands, legal immigrants looking to get their permanent residency have to show they won’t be public charges, or burdens to the country, which has meant becoming primarily dependent on cash assistance, income maintenance or government support for long-term institutionalization.

But the new policy expands that dramatically, by taking into account past and current use of a wide range of assistance like Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers that aren’t currently considered, as well as other factors like age.

Officials would use those factors to decide whether immigrants could potentially become public charges at any point in the future and denying them legal residency if it’s decided the answer is yes.

Roughly 544,000 people apply for green cards annually. According to the government, 382,000 are in categories that would make them subject to the new review, according to the government.

Immigrants make up a small portion of those getting public benefits, since many are ineligible to get them because of their immigration status.

Deepti Hajela covers issues of immigration, race and ethnicity for The Associated Press.

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