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Federal judge halts immigration 'wealth test' in light of pandemic


A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to halt a public charge rule in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The rule is also known as a “wealth test,” since any immigrant who qualifies for and relies on public assistance like Medicaid or food stamps could be denied a green card or visa. It had been in effect since February.

Abbey Sussell, a public charge fellow with the New York Immigration Coalition, said the rule meant that immigrants were not seeking assistance with food, housing, and health care for fear of being separated from their families in the U.S. or denial of their immigration application.

“People are still afraid. They’re still confused. So there’s a lot of work to be done to educate folks about the rule and resources that are available to them.” she said. “It’s truly cruel to create a policy that essentially says you have to be wealthy to be in this country or else we don’t want you here.” 

Judge George Daniels said in his order Wednesday that no one should hesitate to seek medical care or have to endure penalty if they seek temporary financial aid as a result of the pandemic's impact.

New York state Attorney General Letitia James called the ruling a victory that she said will “immediately halt the Trump Administration’s discriminatory rule from continuing to hurt every person across the nation.”

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
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