California and three other states on Friday filed the latest court challenge to new Trump administration rules blocking green cards for many immigrants who use public assistance including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers.
Nearly half of Americans would be considered a burden if the same standards were applied to U.S. citizens, said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
The lawsuit he filed in federal court in San Francisco follows others this week including those by Washington and 12 other states and by two California counties. Joining California are Maine, Oregon and Pennsylvania, as well as the District of Columbia.
The multiple lawsuits all contest one of the Republican administration's most aggressive moves to restrict legal immigration. Spokesmen for the White House and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The new rules set to take effect in October would broaden a range of programs that can disqualify immigrants from legal status if they are deemed to be a burden to the United States - what's known as a "public charge."
Becerra said working families across the nation rely on similar safety net programs. The impact is particularly great in California, which has more than 10 million immigrants. Half of the state's children have an immigrant parent, he said.
His lawsuit argues that the rule creates unnecessary new obstacles for immigrants who want to legally live in the United States. It also discourages them from using health, nutrition, housing and other programs for fear it will erode their chances of being granted lawful status.
"This cruel policy would force working parents and families across the nation to forego basic necessities like food, housing, and health care out of fear. That is simply unacceptable," Becerra said in prepared remarks.
His mother was born in Mexico, coming to the U.S. after marrying his father, and likely would have been affected by the policy, he said. However, the rules don't apply to U.S. citizens, even if the citizen is related to an immigrant who is affected.
Many immigrants are ineligible for public benefits because of their immigration status, and an Associated Press analysis found low-income immigrants use Medicaid, food aid, cash assistance and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, at a lower rate than comparable low-income native-born adults.
President Donald Trump's attempts to thwart illegal immigration have drawn the most attention, but the latest announcement Monday affects people who entered the United States legally and are seeking permanent status.
It is the administration's latest attempt to shift immigration policy from an emphasis on reuniting families to instead consider immigrants' skills. The rule calls for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to consider immigrants' use of public assistance along with other factors such as education, household income and health in determining whether to grant legal status.
"We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient," Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in announcing the administration would go ahead with the rule change.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement that immigrants built the nation and help power the economy.
"This latest move by the federal administration to demonize immigrants is personal for us, in a state where half of our children have at least one immigrant parent," Newsom said. "This new rule designed to create fear in immigrant families is cruel and threatens our public health."
The latest court challenge argues that the rule violates the Constitution's equal protection guarantee by disproportionately affecting immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and Africa. It says the rule is arbitrary and capricious because it punishes immigrants for using common public benefits programs. And it says the rule violates states' rights to protect their residents.
San Francisco and Santa Clara counties similarly argue in their own lawsuit filed earlier this week in California that the rule would harm the health and well-being of their residents and undermine immigration laws that prioritize family unification.
On Wednesday, attorneys general in Washington and Virginia led a coalition of 13 states filing their own lawsuit. They were joined by Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and Rhode Island.