New Jersey Sues Federal Government Over 'Inhumane' Immigration Rule

New Jersey is joining 12 other states in suing the White House over a new policy aimed at lower income immigrants. The states filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to challenge a rule which would make it harder for immigrants to gain legal status if they receive public benefits. These benefits include food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance.

Why Do the 13 States Oppose This Change?

"No family should ever have to choose between staying in America and having access to health care, food, and housing,'' said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “Attorney General Grewal and I are committed to fighting the Trump administration's inhumane, cruel, and un-American changes to the public charge rule." In their lawsuit, the states label the rule as a “radical overhaul” of federal immigration law. In the suit, officials assert that new immigration policy will cause irreparable harm to families and their children throughout the U.S. Who Is Involved with the Suit?

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal joined attorney generals from Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington. The states named the Department of Homeland Security and it’s acting secretary, Kevin McAleenan, in the suit. The USCIS and its acting director, Kenneth Cuccinelli, are also listed as defendants.

Cuccinelli responded to the suit in an e-mail statement. He stated that federal law has required foreign nationals to rely on their own capabilities for a long time. He also stated that individuals should rely on their own resources, their families, their sponsors, and private organizations during the immigration process.

About the New Immigration Rule & Why New Jersey Opposes It

The new immigration rules are scheduled to take effect on October 15. New Jersey officials argue that the rule does not comply with the Immigration and Nationality Act. This act makes it possible for authorities to deny a person from entering the United States if they are likely to become a “public charge.” However, the definition of "public charge" is now under debate. On the August 14 episode of Fox & Friends First, anchor Rob Schmitt claimed that the rule has “been around for a while.” He added that the rule “is not a new thing that the president is trying to implement here, that the United States has been this way."

While the rule is not new, New Jersey officials assert that this interpretation of it is. For centuries, the status of being a public charge was reserved for individuals who are almost completely dependent on assistance from the federal government. The new rule expands the definition of public charge to include almost anyone who utilizes any federal assistance programs. PolitiFact describes this broad interpretation of this law as unprecedented.

"There is a long history of public charge law in this country, but the new regulation represents a big expansion in how this law is interpreted and applied," said Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. "We have never before had such a broad interpretation in place of who might become a public charge."

Efforts Which Are “Unlawful as they Are Inhumane”

New Jersey Attorney General Grewal had much to say about this rule change, and he made this clear during the lawsuit’s announcement.

“The Administration’s efforts to make immigration available only to the well-off are as unlawful as they are inhumane,” Grewal said. “The American Dream has always been about opportunity for all, not just the wealthy, but now our federal government is trying to keep out immigrants seeking to build a new life here, as families have done since the founding of our nation. Not only is that bad for our immigrant neighbors, but it is bad for New Jersey, where immigrants are part of the fabric of our communities and our economy. I am proud to challenge this rule in court.”