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NEW YORK — A U.S. District judge has halted the public charge rule from taking effect nationwide.

In a Friday decision, Judge George Daniels sided with New York state in a lawsuit against the Trump administration to stop a new version of public charge from being implemented on Oct. 15.

Public charge is a test in certain visa and green card applications to determine if someone is likely to become dependent on the government. Whereas the test used to only penalize those who used cash assistance or institutionalization for long-term care federally funded by Medicaid, the Trump administration last month expanded the list of benefits that can be considered to include the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, subsidized and public housing and non-emergency, federally funded Medicaid.

State Attorney General Letitia James filed the lawsuit against the Trump administration soon after the new rule was published, along with the states of Connecticut and Vermont, in the Southern District of New York. The lawsuit argued that the Final Rule was discriminatory toward immigrants with disabilities and lower incomes, and would cause health care premiums to rise.

Daniels agreed, saying in his decision that the Final Rule, as it is being called, would cause irreparable harm across all spectrums — economics, health care and more.

“No less important is the immediate and significant impact that the implementation of the rule will have on law-abiding residents who come to this country to seek a better life,” Daniels wrote. “Overnight, the Rule will expose individuals to economic insecurity, health instability, denial of their path to citizenship, and potential deportation.”

“It is a rule that will punish individuals for their receipt of benefits provided by our government, and discourages them from lawfully receiving available assistance intended to aid them in becoming contributing members of our society,” he continued.

Opponents of the Final Rule were overjoyed by the decision.

“The history of our nation is inextricably tied to our immigrant communities, and because of today’s decision, so too will be our future,” James said in a news release Friday. “This rule would have had devastating impacts on all New Yorkers — citizens and non-citizens alike — and today’s decision is a critical step in our efforts to uphold the rule of law. As long as our communities are under attack from this federal government, we will never stop fighting back.”

Panic spread throughout the immigrant community when talks about changing the public charge rule first started a year ago.

According to a study from the Urban Institute, one in seven non-citizen immigrants reported dropping out of a public benefits program in the past year out of fear they would be affected by the new public charge — even when they didn’t have to.

“A lot of researchers surmise that there’s this chilling effect among immigrants eligible for benefits,” Dulce Gonzalez, a research analyst at the Health Policy Center of the Urban Institute, told Johnson News last week. “That was evident in the interviews we conducted, where we saw families who had naturalized citizens or already had a green card reporting that they stopped participating, which was kind of scary.”

Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at mmikati@columbiagreenemedia.com, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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