In the first lawsuit in the nation challenging one of the most critically important and radical differences between the Trump administration and previous administrations regarding immigration policy, the City of Baltimore filed a November 28 lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Maryland seeking to overturn a sweeping change to the State Department's Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) that vastly expands the definition of the "Public Charge" grounds of inadmissibility.

The lawsuit alleges that the purpose of the change is to discriminate against minority immigrants on the basis of race and nationality by making it harder for anyone who has used any of that city's many public assistance programs for lower income people to receive a visa.

A direct link to the complaint in that case, Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Trump is available through the Washington Posts's November 28 article:

Baltimore sues Trump administration over legal immigrants' access to public benefits.

The complaint cites a major changethatthe Trump administration has made to the FAM making the use of a wide variety of public assistance programs grounds for visa denial under the INA's "Public Charge" grounds for inadmissibility.

As I have mentioned in a previous Immigration Daily comment, the "Public Charge" provisions have a very long history of being used to discriminate against and exclude or deport immigrants from target ethnic or religious groups, dating back to Irish immigrants in the 1840's Asians beginning in the 1890's and Jewish, Southern and Eastern European immigrants in the first half of the 20th century. .

The complaint by the City of Baltimore shows that the purpose of the current expansion the Public Charge definition is no different, except for the identity of the targeted minority groups (which include immigrants from what Trump has called "shithole" counties of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America).

First the complaint alleges that the change in the FAM was made by stealth, without any public notice or opportunity to comment as required by the APA. This itself amounts to an abuse of power, where the Trump administration in effect makes its own laws, something that we are seeing in so many other areas of immigration policy as well.

Then, the complaint lists the far reaching types of public benefits that are being targeted in the FAM changes, including:

Health benefits, Housing benefits, Low-income assistance programs, and Educational benefits

among others that are vital to the well-being of the immigrant communities in that city/

Finally, in addition to alleging violation of the APA, the complaint alleges that the FAM change violates the equal protection guarantee of the Firth Amendment to the Constitution by discriminating against minority groups, as follows (page 69 of the complaint):

"The FAM change discriminates on the basis of race, national origin, or receipt of public benefits, and was motivated by animus and a desire to effect such discrimination. Moreover, the FAM was motivated by discriminatory and baseless stereotypes concerning the receipt of public benefits by immigrants, particularly immigrants from Latin American, African and Asian countries. Defendants'statements provide direct evidence of their discriminatory motives in enacting the FAM change."

The onlyfeature of this lawsuit that might be surprising is why it was not filed earlier, and why there have not so far been other similar lawsuits by other governmental entities or private immigrant rights organizations against one of the most radical and destructive attempts by the Trump administration to date to change America's legal immigration system, (not just engage in rhetoric against minority immigrants).

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law.