The attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its decision earlier this year allowing the Trump administration’s discriminatory public charge to go forward, citing “a public health crisis created by the spread of coronavirus disease 2019,” a statement from New York Attorney General Leticia James’ office said.
“We are in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis,” she tweeted, “and the Public Charge Rule only exacerbates the harms of COVID-19 for immigrants and our entire nation. This rule threatens legal immigrants for accessing health benefits and during a pandemic, the risks of forgoing care are enormous.”
The discriminatory public charge rule—a priority of White House aide and noted white supremacist Stephen Miller—“drives immigrants and their families away from accessing health benefits to which they are entitled by threatening applicants’ eligibility for green cards and visa renewals,” the statement said. This policy is all the more reckless as the nation is in the midst of a pandemic that has now hit every state and killed more than 26,000 people, Tish said in the statement.
“Every person who doesn’t get the health coverage they need today risks infecting another person with the coronavirus tomorrow,” she said. “Immigrants provide us with health care, care for our elderly, prepare and deliver our food, clean our hospitals and public spaces, and take on so many other essential roles in our society, which is why we should all be working to make testing and health coverage available to every single person in this country, regardless of immigration status.”
Dr. Peter Moreno, an assistant professor of Family Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, said in the filing that he’s seen the rule have a negative impact on the well-being of his patients, many of whom are farmworkers and have been deemed “essential workers” by the Trump administration. Dr. Moreno notes that even though novel coronavirus testing is supposed to be exempt from the public charge rule, many patients nonetheless remain on edge.
“I am aware of USCIS's March 13th announcement concerning COVID-19 and public charge,” he wrote in the brief. “Fear and confusion has persisted in my patient population in regards to the public charge and access to COVID-19 related care and other benefits, even after this guidance was issued. Many of my patients appear unaware of the guidance.” Dr. Moreno said he’s “deeply afraid that these farmworkers who don't receive medical attention with early COVID-19 will spread the infection in our community.”
“In the more than two months since the Supreme Court issued its ruling, COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the national landscape,” the statement from James’ office continued. “The United States went from not a single reported COVID-19 case to well more than 575,000 confirmed infections and more than 23,000 confirmed deaths, and is now the country with the most virus-related deaths in the world. More than 195,000 of those infections and more than 10,000 deaths have been reported in New York State alone.”
“In order to beat this virus, we must provide testing and treatment to all those who need it,” she continued on Twitter. “We’re asking the Supreme Court to temporarily halt the rule until this national crisis is over because any rule that threatens an immigrant’s well-being, threatens all of us.”