Rep. Pressley, Massachusetts Delegation Slam Pompeo’s Anti-Immigrant Rule

November 1, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Representatives Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Richard Neal (MA-01), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-04), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), William Keating (MA-09), and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the Secretary to withdraw his department’s Public Charge Inadmissibility Interim Rule. The Department of State’s (DOS) rule would prevent immigrants from receiving vital healthcare, nutritional assistance, and housing programs for which they are qualified. 

 

In the letter, the lawmakers highlight DOS’s disregard for the multiple injunctions issued by federal courts that effectively block the rule from taking effect:

 

“DOS’s decision to adopt the [Department of Homeland Security (DHS)] definition of ‘public charge’ is troubling and legally premature,” the lawmakers wrote. “Five federal district courts issued temporary injunctions blocking DHS’s public charge rule from taking effect, finding that that the petitioners were likely to succeed in their argument that the rule is inconsistent with federal law. This is especially troubling because the DOS rule explicitly incorporates and cites provisions of the invalidated DHS rule – including those that would have protected vulnerable groups such as domestic violence victims – and without which the rest of the DOS rule would be difficult to implement.”

 

Congresswoman Pressley has been a staunch advocate for immigrants and an outspoken opponent of the Trump Administration’s xenophobic policies. Last month, she led a bicameral effort to reinstate medical deferred action for critically ill immigrants receiving lifesaving care in the United States. This summer, she visited US Customs and Border Patrol facilities at the southern border and testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on the human rights abuses she witnessed. In May, she joined colleagues on the House Financial Services Committee to demand the withdrawal of a proposal by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to terminate housing benefits for mixed-immigration status families who rely on HUD’s public and assisted housing programs.

 

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

 

The Honorable Michael Pompeo

Secretary

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

 

Secretary Pompeo,

 

We write to express our urgent concerns regarding the Department of State’s (DOS) continued implementation of its Public Charge Inadmissibility Interim Rule. The rule was originally published on October 11, 2019 with an effective date of October 15, 2019 and adopts a definition of “public charge” that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had finalized in a previously published rule which was also set to go into effect on October 15, 2019. Since then, five federal courts in separate jurisdictions have issued temporary injunctions blocking this rule from taking effect. Due to the recent court injunctions and ongoing litigation challenging the legality of the DHS rule, we urge DOS to immediately withdraw its rule.

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is home to more than 1.2 million immigrants who strengthen our communities, contribute greatly to our state and national economy and help drive innovation and technological advancements. The Administration’s changes to “public charge” would impose stringent new income, age and health requirements on individuals seeking visas, applications for admission, or adjustments of status. The “public charge” rule has already produced a widespread chilling effect, precipitating disenrollment of immigrants and their children—including U.S. citizen children—from vital healthcare, nutritional assistance, and housing programs for which they are qualified. The DOS rule is likely to have a similar chilling effect if implemented as many immigrants who process their visas abroad live in the United States and have U.S. citizen children.

 

DOS’s decision to adopt the DHS definition of “public charge” is troubling and legally premature. Five federal district courts issued temporary injunctions blocking DHS’s public charge rule from taking effect, finding that that the petitioners were likely to succeed in their argument that the rule is inconsistent with federal law. This is especially troubling because the DOS rule explicitly incorporates and cites provisions of the invalidated DHS rule – including those that would have protected vulnerable groups such as domestic violence victims   – and without which the rest of the DOS rule would be difficult to implement.

 

While DOS announced the postponement of implementing its “public charge” rule following the recent court injunctions, on October 24, 2019 the agency published a 60-Day Notice of Proposed Information Collection for the DS-5540, officially known as its “Public Charge Questionnaire,” a necessary step to have the new information collection approved. These process developments indicate that DOS may be moving forward with implementing these changes regardless of the status of ongoing litigation.

 

Due to the significant impact that this DOS rule will have on immigrant families throughout the Commonwealth and across the country, we request that DOS withdraw its rule completely and provide documentation and answers to the following questions by November 14, 2019.

 

  1. The DOS regulation, promulgated 3 months after the DHS rule and containing the same “public charge” definition, appears to rely upon the latter. Does DOS intend to continue to rely on conforming its “public charge” definition to the enjoined DHS definition as a justification for implementing the DOS Interim Rule?

 

  1. Who were/are the most senior officials in the White House who recommended and approved DOS’ reliance on the DHS definition?

 

  1. What (if any) internal process has DOS undertaken since the issuance of the injunctions related to the DHS public charge regulation to determine whether the DOS definition may similarly be unlawful?

 

  1. Does DOS intend to reevaluate the propriety of issuing an Interim Regulation rather than a Proposed Regulation now that the emergency basis for foregoing the ordinary public comment period has been eliminated by the temporary injunctions? 

 

  1. Once the new DOS form is approved, how much additional time, if any, will be provided for stakeholder engagement prior to requiring that visa applicants with new or pending cases use the form?

 

  1. What would be the earliest specific date on which the DOS form would be required?

 

  1.  What guidance has been given to DOS posts domestically and internationally while this process is under deliberation?

 

  1. How will DOS ensure that visa applicants with pending cases are not burdened with after-the-fact requests for additional evidence or forms because of the implementation of the DOS rule? 

 

We thank you for your cooperation.

 

 

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