Washington is taking the lead among 13 states in challenging new immigration rules that could disqualify some applicants for citizenship or legal residence because they received some forms of public assistance.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Richland on Wednesday, the states contend the Trump administration is attempting a “radical overhaul of federal immigration law” with the final rules it announced earlier this week that change the definition of “public charge.”
The term originally meant a pauper who was unlikely to ever be able to support himself, the 169-page lawsuit contends.
The new rules expand the meaning to anyone who temporarily receives many common government services such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing vouchers. Federal officials can also determine whether an applicant can become a public charge in the future based on income, employment, education and proficiency in English.
In announcing the rule change Monday, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli said the administration was “re-enforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America.”
The suit charges that a motivating factor behind the rule change is discrimination against people of color, based in part on statements by President Donald Trump and Cuccinelli “reflecting animus toward non-European immigrants.”
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson called the law “un-American, anti-immigrant and unlawful” in a news release announcing the lawsuit.
Joining Washington in the legal challenge are Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Virginia. The lawsuit asks the federal court to overturn the rule and declare it unconstitutional.