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Federal judge in Eastern Washington blocks the Trump administration's 'public charge' rule

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has issued recommendations on transparency when police use deadly force.
Elaine Thompson
The Associated Press
In this Sept. 2, 2015 file photo, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a news conference in Seattle.

A federal judge in Eastern Washington has issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule, which would make it harder for legal immigrants who receive food assistance, Medicaid or housing benefits to become permanent residents of the U.S.

Washington is the lead plaintiff in the case, which includes 13 other plaintiff states, such as Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico and Colorado.

Also today, a federal judge in New York issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the rule from taking effect on Oct. 15.

“It’s a complete and total victory for the state of Washington,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in an interview with KNKX Public Radio. “In order to get an injunction to put a stop to the president’s actions, the judge specifically has to determine that we are likely to win the case when she gets around to ruling on the merits.”

Ferguson said he anticipates that the Trump administration will file an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Ultimately, the case in New York and another one in California may get consolidated with the Washington lawsuit and heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.

In announcing the rule in August, Trump administration officials said the aim was to ensure that immigrants are able to support themselves and not rely on taxpayers for their basic needs. For many years, U.S. immigration law and policies determined someone to be a public charge if they depended on cash assistance or were institutionalized at government expense.

But under the new rule, the Department of Homeland Security broadened the definition to include legal immigrants who receive non-cash benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid or housing assistance.

“The Court finds that immediate and ongoing harm to the Plaintiff States and their residents, both immigrant and non-immigrant, is predictable, and there is a significant likelihood of irreparable injury if the rule were to take effect as scheduled,” Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson wrote in her order.

The states had argued that the chilling effect of the rule will lead to large numbers of legal immigrants — including parents of U.S. citizen children — withdrawing from public benefits, leading to increased long-term costs as people forgo preventive medical care. They also argued it will lead to food insecurity and increased homelessness.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.