A federal court in New York has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the government from enforcing the public charge rule during the COVID-19 national emergency.

Key points:

  • This is the second time the U.S. District Court Judge George B. Daniels has blocked the public charge rule from taking effect. The first injunction was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 27, and the rule took effect Feb. 24.
  • Daniels ruled that a new injunction was warranted, citing the surge in the COVID-19 pandemic in the six months since the Supreme Court decision.
  • The court said that there is “ample evidence” that the public charge rule “deters immigrants from seeking testing and treatment for COVID-19,” in turn impeding efforts to stem the spread of the disease. It also concluded that “informal guidance” issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stating that the rule would not apply to certain COVID-19 benefits was insufficient to mitigate harm and that uncertainty about the scope of the guidance “further adds to confusion and chaos.”

Background: The lawsuit was filed by several states and nonprofit organizations. The public charge rule significantly broadens the grounds of inadmissibility of green card applicants on the basis of their past or future reliance on public benefits. Adjustment of status applicants are required to provide extensive financial and health details and complete an 18-page Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency.

BAL Analysis: The Department of Homeland Security has not yet issued any guidance in response to the ruling. The government is likely to appeal the decision, as in previous proceedings on this issue. BAL is closely following the case and the response from DHS and will report developments as information becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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