African Services Committee Joins in Filing of New ‘Public Charge’ Lawsuit Over Proposed Immigration Rule

‘Public Charge’ Rule Devastating to Immigrants and Families

New York, New York, Aug. 27, 2019: African Services Committee strongly condemns the administration’s “public charge” rule published Aug. 14, 2019 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and stands in solidarity with immigrant families and allies across the country, as we fight the finalized rule’s expanded provisions scheduled for publication Oct. 15, 2019. 

African Services Committee joined other non profit and advocacy organizations in a lawsuit filed Aug. 27 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) seeking to block the Trump administration’s proposed “public charge” rule before it takes effect on October 15, 2019. The organizations, Make the Road New York, African Services Committee, Asian American Federation, Catholic Charities Community Services, and Catholic Legal Immigration Network ("CLINIC"), are represented by The Legal Aid Society, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. If the rule takes effect, it will vastly expand the government’s ability to deny permanent status to immigrants who have relied on certain public benefits. This litigation seeks a permanent injunction to block rule from taking effect, and marks one of many lawsuits to be filed across the nation.  

When applying for permanent residency or “green card,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must determine whether an immigrant is likely to become a public charge. The administration finalized a dramatically expanded scope of the types of public benefits which USCIS may consider in its determination regarding whether someone is likely to become a public charge and therefore ineligible for lawful permanent residency.  

“This cruel and callous revision is yet another example of this administration’s racist mission to undermine the very ethos of this country as a safe haven for immigrants and their families,” said African Services Committee’s Director of Advocacy, Amanda Lugg. 

Acting Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Kenneth Cuccinelli earlier this month emphasized the administration’s bigoted agenda by adding his caveat to Emma Lazarus’ sonnet etched at the base of the Statue of Liberty “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge.” He later said the poem referred to “people coming from Europe,” sending a clear message that only the wealthy and white are welcome in this country.  This ruling deliberately incites fear and confusion, targeting poorer immigrants of color and driving up homelessness, hunger, and disenfranchisement as families dis-enroll in vital services.

“We have clients consulting their case managers as to whether they should stop taking their HIV medication and others who have refused lawfully-entitled housing assistance in the belief that this will ensure their eligibility to reunite their families,” said Lugg. “Such scenarios call to attention the catastrophic public health implications that this rule threatens to create, undoing hard won progress toward ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. and here in New York State. Unfairly, and against the public interest, many individuals living with chronic health conditions will be asked to choose between their own health and welfare, and their legal right to family reunification.”

 “We want to underscore the importance of speaking with a licensed immigration attorney before individuals consider any changes to their use of public benefit programs,” said ASC Staff Attorney, Gabriel Guimaraes.  “Also, certain protected immigrant groups, such as asylees, are not subject to public charge determinations when they apply for permanent residency and would not be affected by this proposed rule.” New Yorkers with questions about the new regulation can contact the Office for New Americans hotline at 1-800-566-7636 to receive more information as well a ActionNYC at 311 or 1-800-354-0365 to access New York City -funded legal advice.


African Services Committee (ASC) is a human rights, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health and self-sufficiency of the African community and anyone who needs our services. African Services Committee provides health, housing, legal, educational, and social services to thousands of newcomers each year in New York City.  ASC has also worked on the frontlines of the global AIDS epidemic since 2003; operating three health and community development centers in Ethiopia, and through advocacy and policy work in the U.S. and abroad. 


Media Contact: Eirik Omlie 

Communications Director

African Services Committee

212.222.3382 x 2130

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