Nessel Joins Lawsuit Targeting Rule Affecting Public Benefits for Immigrants


Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined 12 other state attorneys in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The lawsuit targets changes to a “public charge” rule affecting immigrants.

Under the changes, a legal immigrant who seeks benefits like food or housing assistance may have their legal status revoked. It also allows the federal government to revoke legal status of those it anticipates may use benefits, even if they are not currently using them.

A “public charge” is someone whose survival depends on public assistance. It does not include temporary assistance such as food, housing or health care assistance. Federal law allows some lawful immigrants to apply for public benefits after five years in the U.S.

Nessel said that the new rule expands the definition of public charge to include those who may use a “broad range” of assistance for as short as four months. The lawsuit asserts that the expansion violates federal immigration statutes, the Welfare Reform Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

“Michigan is home to tens of thousands of legal immigrants who have every legal right to receive certain benefits to provide food, health care and shelter for their families,” said Nessel. “We cannot and must not allow this morally bankrupt administration to undermine the very fiber of a country that was built on providing a helping hand to those who came to our shores from other nations – and which sacred values are enshrined on our Statue of Liberty. We are better than this.”

Nessel said in a statement that this new rule is a “bait-and-switch.”

“The new definition expands immigration officials’ ability to deny visas and permanent residency to any individual who they predict may use these types of assistance in the future,” a statement from Nessel’s office says. “Permanent residents may also be labeled a public charge if they use government assistance and leave the country for less than a year.”

The Michigan Attorney General also tweeted about the lawsuit, saying that America is “not just for wealthy Norwegians.”

Nessel joined 13 other states, including Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington. The coalition is led by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

“The Trump Administration’s message is clear: if you’re wealthy you’re welcome, if you’re poor, you’re not,” said Ferguson in a statement. “It forces families into an impossible choice — to sacrifice their dream of becoming Americans in order to provide health care, food or a roof over their children’s heads, or let their families go without in order to remain in the country. This rule is un-American, anti-immigrant and unlawful. I intend to stop it.”

Nessel asserts that visa holders and applicants for permanent residency could avoid seeking assistance in case it makes them ineligible to renew their legal immigration status, putting them and their families at risk.

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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with Battleground State News and The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected].







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