Washington leads charge in asking court to block ‘public charge’ rule

On Friday, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson asked a federal judge to block the Trump Administration from implementing the “public charge rule” while the states’ lawsuit continues. Ferguson is leading the charge for Washington among 14 other states. The motion was filed in Spokane with Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson. 

Under the new rule, a public charge would include lawfully present individuals or families who will use a broad range of federal assistance for housing, food or health care at any time in the future, for as short as four months.


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In mid-August the states filed a 169-page complaint against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security stating that the Trump Administration’s changes to the “public charge” rule violate federal immigration statutes, the Welfare Reform Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

In the documents filed, Ferguson stated: 

“The Trump Administration’s message is clear: if you’re wealthy you’re welcome, if you’re poor, you’re not. It forces families into an impossible choice — to sacrifice their dream of becoming Americans in order to provide health care, food or a roof over their children’s heads, or let their families go without in order to remain in the country. This rule is un-American, anti-immigrant and unlawful. I intend to stop it.”

The states must now show that they have a substantial likelihood of winning the case, and that if the changes go into effect, the states are likely to suffer irreparable harm.

“The new definition expands immigration officials’ ability to deny visas and permanent residency to any individual who they predict may use these types of assistance in the future. If permanent residents who have used government assistance leave the country for 180 days, they may also be labeled a public charge when they apply to return, potentially losing their status,” a press release from the Attorney General explains. 


State level impacts will be apparent as well. In Washington approximately 455,000 children who are U.S. citizens have at least one immigrant parent. These families will likely refrain from applying for services they need out of fear it would be used for deportation purposes, or to deny legal documentation in the future.

“….families who need help obtaining adequate food, health care or shelter will forego up to an estimated $55 million annually in food or cash assistance. More Washington families and children will experience hunger and food insecurity. More families will suffer homelessness, resulting in poorer health and educational outcomes for children,” the press release states. 

Additionally, 140,000 lawfully present Washingtonians may lose health insurance as a direct result of the rule. Many of these people will go to the emergency room for routine medical care,  forcing the state to cover the vastly more expensive medical costs.

Other states involved in the lawsuit include: Virginia, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and Rhode Island.