Wednesday , May 12 2021

Baltimore sues Trump admin over immigrants' access to benefits

"The Trump Administration's changes to the (a State Department manual) put thumb on the scale in favor of barring immigrants from the country if they have used any of a host of federal, state or local programs – making it much harder for immigrants to reunite with their families, "the lawsuit reads.

The suit names President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department as defendants, and charges the administration with violating the Constitution's equal protection guarantees.

"The change was motivated by Trump's well-known hostility towards certain immigrant groups – the most notable Hispanic, Asian and African communities – and is a violation of federal laws governing administrative agencies, including the Constitution's guarantee of Equal Protection," read a statement from the Baltimore Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh.

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment on the suit.

The move, the city said, came in response to a state department change to its definition of a "public charge," a term for a prospective immigrant who is likely to be "primarily dependent" on government benefits. According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, someone designated a public charge is inadmissible to the United States and is not eligible to become a permanent resident.
As CNN reported last spring, the Trump administration has considered including many additional benefits – such as the Children's Health Insurance Program and food stamps – when deciding who might be public charge, thus restricting access to public benefits to legal immigrants.
Baltimore's lawsuit notes that a similar change in the Department of Homeland Security, which extends public charging definition, has yet to take effect, while a parallel State Department policy has already been put into place.

According to the suit, the State Department has expanded its definition of public charge in the Foreign Affairs Manual to include a wider array of benefits, and the change resulted in immigrant residents of Baltimore declining to accept "the public benefits of Baltimore making available to all of its residents. "

"Baltimore's immigrant residents will be less healthy and less well-off as a result of Defendants' illegal actions," the lawsuit says.

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