New York v. United States Department of Homeland Security, No. 19-3591 (2d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs, a group of state and local governments and a group of non-profit organizations, filed separate suits under the Administrative Procedure Act, both challenging the validity of a DHS rule interpreting 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4), which renders inadmissible to the United States any non-citizen deemed likely to become a public charge. The district court entered orders in both cases to enjoin implementation of the rule nationwide.
After determining that the States and the Organizations have Article III standing to challenge the rule and that they fall within the zone of interests of the public charge statute, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the implementation of the rule. The court held that plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the rule is contrary to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The court explained that, in reenacting the public charge ground in 1996, Congress endorsed the settled administrative and judicial interpretation of that ground as requiring a holistic examination of a non-citizen's self-sufficiency focused on ability to work and eschewing any idea that simply receiving welfare benefits made one a public charge. Furthermore, the rule makes receipt of a broad range of public benefits on even a short-term basis the very definition of "public charge." Therefore, that exceedingly broad definition is not in accordance with law.
The court also held that plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the rule is arbitrary and capricious. In this case, DHS has not provided a reasoned explanation for its changed definition of "public charge" or the rule's expanded list of relevant benefits. The court further held that plaintiffs have established irreparable harm, and that the balance of the equities and the public interest tips in favor of granting the injunction. However, the court modified the scope of the injunctions to cover only the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.