Texas Sues Biden Admin Over Public Charge Immigration Rule Change
Texas Sues Biden Admin Over Public Charge Immigration Rule Change

By Caden Pearson

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit on Thursday to stop the Biden administration from ignoring a federal immigration law that prevents illegal immigrants from residing in the United States if they’re likely to rely on taxpayer-funded programs.

“I’ve sued [President Joe] Biden over a dozen times to secure our southern border,” Paxton said on Twitter. “Now, just as 2023 is starting, I’m bringing another lawsuit—the first of its kind in the nation on Biden’s disastrous new public-charge rule. I’ll keep suing [and] winning until he [and] his lawless Dems follow the law.”

Paxton accused the Biden administration of furthering an open borders policy by enacting the new rule, which “effectively nullifies federal law excluding aliens likely to become public charges,” according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (pdf).

That rule has been in place since 1882 and was reaffirmed by Congress in 1996 under the bipartisan Welfare Reform Act. By not enforcing the law, the Biden administration has opened the door to illegal aliens who’ll be dependent on welfare, the lawsuit alleges.

Paxton’s lawsuit argues that the December 2022 rule was enacted in violation of federal law and is arbitrary and capricious.

“The Biden Administration is committed to opening the borders to aliens who lack the ability to take care of themselves. Texans should not have to pay for these costly immigrants, nor should any other American,” Paxton said in a statement. “I will continue to defend the rule of law and fight to ensure that the massive costs of illegal immigration don’t further burden taxpayers.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at a border town hall in Brackettville, Texas, on Oct. 11, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Public Charge

Paxton’s office said the new rule prohibits the consideration of statutorily required factors in determining whether an alien is likely to become a “public charge.” The term public charge first appeared in statute in the Immigration Act of 1882, where Congress barred the admission of “any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.”

Self-sufficiency has been considered a basic principle of U.S. immigration law since the country’s earliest immigration statutes. It is U.S. immigration policy that aliens within the country’s borders shouldn’t depend on public resources to meet their needs but rather rely on their individual capabilities and the resources of their families, sponsors, and private organizations. Further, the availability of public benefits shouldn’t be an incentive for immigration to the United States.

As assurance that they won’t become a drain on taxpayers, aliens usually offer U.S. authorities documentation that their family will financially support them. However, Biden’s rule prevents a comprehensive probe of the truth of this material, according to Paxton’s office.

Paxton is also leading a 14-state coalition that filed a cert-stage brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in September 2022 after the Biden administration tried to covertly abolish the public charge rule. That petition was filed after the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled against a Texas-led coalition.

“With America in the midst of a recession and families across the country already facing record-high inflation, it’s completely reprehensible to expect taxpayers to foot the bill for hundreds of millions of dollars to sponsor more and more illegal aliens,” Paxton said at the time.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent directs an illegal immigrant after he crossed into the United States from Mexico through a gap in the border wall separating Algodones, Mexico, from Yuma, Arizona, on May 16, 2022. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Rule Change

Paxton argues in his lawsuit that the Biden administration’s rule change is intended to ensure that “virtually no alien is ever found to be a public charge.”

While the 1996 reform was designed “to increase the bite of the public charge determination,” the 2022 rule change “illegally narrows the meaning of ‘public charge’ to oblivion, disregarding of the term’s historical meaning and violating the statute,” according to the lawsuit.

Paxton’s lawsuit argues that the 2022 rule change ignores congressional mandates by only considering cash, but not in-kind, government benefits when assessing whether an individual is likely to become a public charge.

“Moreover, the 2022 rule de-fangs the statutory requirement ‘rendering most family-sponsored applicants automatically inadmissible on public charge grounds unless they obtained an enforceable affidavit of support from a sponsor’ by prohibiting a meaningful evaluation of whether the affidavit is true and correct,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit argues that the Biden administration has ignored a 2019 final rule that was promulgated to govern the inadmissibility of public charges, which has never been repealed through the notice-and-comment process, and which the federal government refuses to enforce.

Further, the rule “will needlessly exacerbate” the “unprecedented border crisis,” which Paxton blames on the Biden administration’s policies.

“The timing of the 2022 Rule could not be worse … Any changes viewed as further easing immigration enforcement or access to public benefits for aliens will only lead to even more illegal immigration,” the lawsuit states.

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