Baltimore Sues Administration’s Change to “Public Charge” Evaluation Conducted by Consular Officers

The city of Baltimore filed a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s efforts to curtail legal immigration by penalizing people who use public benefits, alleging that the Administration’s expanded definition of “public charges” has had a chilling effect on the city’s immigrant community, which Baltimore officials see as key to its revival. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, challenges a change to the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual that took effect in January. The change instructs consular officers evaluating immigrant visa applications abroad to consider whether applicants, their families, or their sponsors have used a public benefit in the United States or might in the future. The lawsuit alleges that legal immigrants have stopped using school programs, food subsidies, housing vouchers, and health clinics – for which they are eligible – as a result, which in turn is hurting the city’s mission to welcome immigrants. Previous versions of the U.S. government’s “public charge” policy, which denies entry to people who are likely to rely on government assistance, explicitly excluded programs such as health care and food subsidies from consideration. A somewhat similar but separate change recently proposed by DHS would affect certain adjustment of status applications filed in the United States and has received tremendous press attention. While public comments were due December 10, the DHS rules remain pending.


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