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Federal Court Strikes Down Trump's 'Racist Wealth Test' Designed to Punish Low-Income Immigrants

Trump's proposed rule was "repugnant to the American dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility," a federal judge said.

After President Donald Trump proposed passing immigrants over for green cards if they use public assistance last year, programs including WIC and SNAP reported that fewer immigrant families applied for help. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

Immigrant rights groups applauded a federal judge's ruling on Friday that struck down President Donald Trump's proposal to put even more barriers in front of immigrants by labeling them "burdens" to the U.S. government.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels issued a preliminary injunction on Trump's "public charge" rule, which would have allowed immigration caseworkers to deny visas or green cards to undocumented immigrants if they are seen as likely to use government assistance such as SNAP benefits.

The proposed rule, previously set to go into effect on October 15, "is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification," Daniels wrote in his ruling.

"It is repugnant to the American dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility," the judge added.

Make the Road New York was among the advocacy groups which, along with several states and cities, filed nearly a dozen lawsuits challenging the rule after it was introduced last year.

The group hailed Daniels's decision as "a major defeat for the Trump administration's unlawful tactic to impose a racist wealth test on our immigration system."

"People should be able to access vital and life-saving benefits without having to worry if they could remain with their families," co-executive director Javier Valdes said in a statement. 

The federal government has labeled certain undocumented immigrants as "public charges" for more than a century; in the 1990s, the Clinton administration enforced a rule allowing the label to be applied only to immigrants who would use cash benefits.

Trump proposed extending the rule to people who may need Medicaid, SNAP benefits, public housing assistance, or other benefits. As Common Dreams and other outlets reported last year, providers of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) reported that the president's proposal led to fewer applications for benefits, as families likely feared being targeted by Trump's anti-immigration agenda.

"The big concern for all of us in the WIC community is that this program is really about growing healthy babies," Rev. Douglas Greenaway, president and CEO of the National WIC Association, told Politico at the time.

Some advocates pointed out Friday that Daniels's ruling came just ahead of another federal court decision on Friday barring Trump from enacting his anti-immigration policies.

A U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas ruled that Trump violated the law when he declared a national emergency in order to build a border wall separating the U.S. from Mexico.

"Good news," the legal services non-profit RAICES tweeted. "The Trump administration has suffered two HUGE loses today in its campaign to dramatically overhaul the nation's immigration system."

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