Appeals court refuses to lift injunction on immigrant 'public charge' rule

A panel of federal judges in New York on Wednesday denied the Trump administration’s request to begin a program aimed at cutting back benefits for immigrants while a lawsuit over the plan plays out in court.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit keeps in place a nationwide halt on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE’s "public charge" rule that links immigrants’ legal status to their use of public benefits.

The three judges on the panel are all Democratic appointees. Judge Amalya L. Kearse was appointed to the bench by President Carter, Guido Calabresi by President Clinton, and Susan L. Carney by President Obama.

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The order came after the Trump administration sought to implement the program while it appeals a U.S.-wide injunction entered by a federal district judge in New York. 

Two similar injunctions were lifted last month by the Richmond, Va.-based 4th Circuit and the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit. Despite those decisions, however, the injunction from New York, which falls under the 2nd Circuit, continues to apply across the country.

The Trump administration’s controversial approach to the public charge rule, announced in August, is one of a series of administration measures aimed at curbing legal immigration.

Under the policy, an immigrant would be considered a public charge — essentially dependent on government aid — if they receive at least one public benefit for more than 12 months within any three-year period. Benefits include Medicaid, food stamps, welfare or public housing vouchers. The Trump administration rule would also examine the likelihood of an immigrant using such benefits in the future. 

The rule, which represents a more stringent approach to a long-standing immigration law than those taken by recent administrations, is likely to make it harder for some immigrants to obtain a green card to reside permanently in the U.S.

The policy was quickly challenged in court, leading to several nationwide injunctions before it could take effect on Oct. 15.

At issue in the case is whether the Trump administration has the proper authority to expand the definition of who is considered a public charge.

The White House did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Updated at 11:12 a.m.