As part of a swift backlash against the Trump Administration's Monday announcement about restricting citizenship only to those immigrants who do not require public assistance, the counties of San Francisco and Santa Clara filed suit in federal court on Tuesday.
The new rule, called the "public charge rule," would take effect in October, and would impact all legal immigrants who are in the process of applying for green cards. In line with much of Trump's rhetoric that suggests all immigrants — except maybe Norwegians — are criminals, job-stealers, or drains on the economy, the rule would deny citizenship to poor immigrants who have used or who may need to use government benefit programs like food stamps and Medicaid.
In response, as the New York Times reports, officials in San Francisco and Santa Clara are suing the government saying that those immigrants in need of these programs will simply turn to state and local resources, putting an undue burden on those.
"This illegal rule is yet another attempt to vilify immigrants," says SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera in a statement. "It makes it easier to unfairly target hard-working, lawful immigrants while sowing fear and confusion in our communities."
Immigrant and public health advocates say that the rule is likely to push immigrants to avoid getting necessary healthcare and vaccinations, for fear that using federal benefits to do so will mean they won't be able to get green cards in the future.
The rule does not apply to asylum seekers, pregnant women, or children, or those who already have green cards. But as Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center told the Times on Monday, the rule sends one clear message: "You are not welcome here."
Many critics have also pointed out in recent days that the rule goes against the famous Emma Lazarus poem affixed to the Statue of Liberty that says, "Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
When asked about this on NPR, acting Citizenship and Immigration Services director Ken Cuccinelli simply rewrote the poem to say, "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."
Per the times, advocacy organizations think the new rule could affect the use of public assistance by some 26 million legal immigrants.