Attorney General James Joins Multistate Amicus Brief Challenging Trump Administration's “Public Charge” Rules  

NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James today joined a coalition of 19 Attorneys General in filing a multistate amicus brief in support of plaintiffs in Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v Trump et alThe case challenges the Trump Administration’s abrupt changes to the longstanding Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) guidance. The guidance now permits consular officials to consider the receipt of a wide range of public benefits when considering whether to give a person permission to enter the country. The Attorneys General argue that they have a compelling interest in protecting the health, well-being, and economic security of their residents. This includes public benefits designed to help families make ends meet and ensure strong, healthy families in across the nation. 

“This is yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to restrict legal immigration into our country,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “These new rules are un-American and will stand in the way of families being reunited and long-term residents gaining citizenship. We will continue to fight for policies that provide a pathway to citizenship and opportunity, rather than those that unfairly deny them.” 

On January 3, 2018, the U.S. Department of State revised sections of its FAM guidance to permit consular officials to consider the receipt of a wide range of public benefits. This includes considering an applicant’s entire household when adjudicating admission and decreases the weight traditionally given to a financial sponsor’s affidavit of support to determine whether someone is a “public charge.” The term public charge has long been used to describe people who are primarily dependent on government-funded cash assistance or long-term care. Individuals who are likely to become a public charge may be denied admission to the U.S. or lawful permanent status.   

On November 28, 2018, the City of Baltimore filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, challenging the Trump Administration’s changes to the public charge guidance in the FAM. The City of Baltimore and its counsel, Democracy Forward, argue that the FAM guidance deters immigrant families from accepting Baltimore’s public benefits such as housing, healthcare, education, and other assistance programs out of fear of jeopardizing their future legal immigration status or the status of their family members. The City further argues that it will be forced to expend resources to encourage immigrants to accept these benefits, and that the changes to the FAM guidance will impose costs on Baltimore’s programs and the city as a whole. 

Attorney General James joined the Attorneys General of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, Vermont and Washington, led by California and the District of Columbia.