States launch legal effort after Biden drops Trump rule on immigrants and welfare

States launch legal effort after Biden drops Trump rule on immigrants and welfare

A coalition of 11 states are seeking to intervene in a lawsuit to challenge the Biden administration’s move to drop a Trump-era policy that restricts immigrants deemed reliant on welfare from receiving green cards.

The “public charge” rule was introduced by the Trump administration in 2019 and  expanded the definition of “public charge” as an immigrant who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period.

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Whether an immigrant would be a “public charge” would affect their chances of getting a green card — as well as other factors such as age, health and education.

Critics said the rule was discriminatory and would disincentivize struggling immigrants from claiming the assistance they need, and launched a legal fight against the move that went up to the Supreme Court.

The Biden administration announced recently it would no longer seek to defend the rule and dropped its legal challenges.

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Continuing to defend the rule “is neither in the public interest nor an efficient use of limited government resources,” DHS said in a statement.

The states, led by Arizona, filed a motion this week to intervene in the lawsuit, which would allow the states to petition the Supreme Court to accept review of the case and have the case heard in full.

“It is unconscionable to overwhelm our infrastructure and immigration personnel when we are dealing with the health and economic devastation of the pandemic,” Arizona Attorney Mark General Brnovich said in a statement. “While regardless of one’s position on immigration reform, this reckless violation of federal law is only creating another national crisis and putting additional strains on our state and hardworking Arizona taxpayers.”

The states say they have interest in upholding the rule as implementation would reduce demand on welfare and government assistance that impacts them directly.

Those benefits considered under the rule include Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), as well as most forms of Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — commonly known as food stamps. The rule expanded the number of benefits that can be considered from interim guidance issued in 1999.

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Joining Arizona in the suit are Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia.

It comes days after Arizona and Montana announced a challenge to the Biden administration’s limiting of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) priorities for arrest and deportation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.