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Baltimore, Gaithersburg sue Trump administration over ‘public charge’ rule limiting green cards, visas to immigrants on public assistance

Baltimore City and the town of Gaithersburg are suing the Trump administration over its “public charge” rule, saying the rule allowing the government to prohibit green cards or permanent residency to certain immigrants using public benefits is “designed to reduce legal immigration levels and to disfavor poorer immigrants and immigrants of color.”

Filed in U.S. District Court, the lawsuit marks the latest effort by city and state officials along with immigration advocates to stop the rule, which goes into effect on Oct. 15. The municipalities are joined by state Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery, and a number of advocacy groups.

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The lawsuit also asserts that the federal rule could have a “chilling effect” on immigrants who make use of legal public benefits such as Medicaid or housing vouchers, something another advocacy group says is already happening.

In a separate lawsuit filed earlier this month, Casa de Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group, claims that some of its members have started dropping public benefits as details of the rule have been revealed.

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“Since earlier iterations of the Public Charge Rule were first reported in the media, some of CASA’s members have disenrolled themselves and their children from public benefits to which they are lawfully entitled because of fear and confusion about what public benefits may affect their ability to stay in the United States and become [Lawful Permanent Residents] and, one day, U.S. citizens,” the lawsuit claims.

It confirms the concerns of Attorney General Brian Frosh, who joined a coalition of 12 other attorneys general last month in suing the administration in a separate lawsuit over the rule.

Frosh and the attorneys general argued in the lawsuit that the rule “will deter lawfully present, legally eligible immigrants or their family members from participating in ... ‘public benefit’ programs’ ” and that they “will be forced into state emergency programs.”

An attorney representing the administration did not return calls for comment.

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director, has said the regulation would encourage “self-sufficiency” among immigration applicants.

During an interview on CNN, Cuccinelli also revised the poem at the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty to suggest only immigrants who could “stand on their own two feet” are welcome in America and said the poem “was referring back to people coming from Europe.”

In addition to the “chilling effect” on public benefits, the city’s lawsuit claims that reducing legal immigration could be detrimental to the region’s economy.

“With a declining birthrate among native born Americans, an increasing flow of immigrants is needed simply to replace those who leave the workforce through death or retirement,” the lawsuit claims.

There are more than 48,000 foreign-born immigrants in Baltimore, the lawsuit claims, and around 7%, or around 3,500 people, “were entrepreneurs in 2016.”

As for Waldstreicher, the lawsuit claims that one-quarter of his District 18 in Montgomery County is Hispanic and the rule “is impeding [his] ability to safeguard the health and wellbeing of his constituents” because it’s causing the same chilling effect on public benefits.

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