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Casa De Maryland, Inc. v. Trump

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

October 14, 2019

CASA DE MARYLAND, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
DONALD J. TRUMP, et al., Defendants.



         This case arises out of a challenge to the Department of Homeland Security's (“DHS”) newly adopted immigration rule regarding “public charge” admissibility determinations, scheduled to take effect on October 15, 2019. Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (“INA”) (codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(4)(A)) authorizes the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to deny admission to the United States of anyone likely to be a “public charge.” Congress first introduced this provision in the Immigration Act of 1882. DHS's new rule defines “public charge” as someone who immigration officials determine will likely receive 12 months of public benefits, including non-cash benefits, in a 36-month span at any point in their life. Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, 84 Fed. Reg. 41, 292 (Aug. 14, 2019) (to be codified at 8 C.F.R. pts. 103, 212, 213, 214, 245, 248 (the “Public Charge Rule” or “Rule”).

         Plaintiffs Angel Aguiluz, Monica Camacho Perez (collectively, the “Individual Plaintiffs”), and CASA de Maryland, Inc. (“CASA”) bring this action against Defendants Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States, Kevin K. McAleenan, in his official capacity as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, in his official capacity as Acting Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. ECF No. 27. Plaintiffs argue that the Public Charge Rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”) and the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Pending before me is Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and to postpone the effective date of the Rule. ECF No. 28. The issues have been fully briefed and a hearing was held on the motion.[1] For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs' motion is granted. DHS is enjoined from enforcing the Public Charge Rule and the effective date of the Rule is postponed on a nationwide basis during the pendency of this case.[2]


         The public charge admissibility provision first appeared in the Immigration Act of 1882. That Act denied admission to the United States of “any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any other person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.” Act of Aug. 3, 1882, ch. 376, § 2, 22 Stat. 214, 214 (“1882 Act”). Between 1882 and the INA's enactment in 1952, the public charge admissibility ground continued to appear in U.S. Immigration statutes.[3]

         During this time, the meaning of the term “public charge” was the subject of interpretation by federal courts, as well as Board of Immigration Appeals and Attorney General opinions. See discussion of cases in Part III, infra. For example, in a 1964 immigration opinion, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy summarized the history of cases interpreting the public charge admissibility provision, concluding that “[t]he general tenor of the holdings is that the statute requires more than a showing of a possibility that the alien will require public support” and that “[a] healthy person in the prime of life cannot ordinarily be considered likely to become a public charge.” Matter of Martinez-Lopez, 10 I. & N. Dec. 409, 421-22 (AG 1964). Rather, to be a public charge, “[s]ome specific circumstance, such as mental or physical disability, advanced age, or other fact reasonably tending to show that the burden of supporting the alien is likely to be cast on the public, must be present.” Id.

         In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, Pub. L. No. 104-193, Title IV, 110 Stat. 2260 (codified as amended at 8 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq.) (the “Welfare Reform Act.”). The bill significantly limited the public benefits that non-Legal Permanent Residents and undocumented immigrants could receive. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1611, 1621(a), (d), 1641(b). The Welfare Reform Act also included several policy statements, including, “Self-sufficiency has been a basic principle of United States immigration law since this country's earliest immigration statutes”; “[T]he immigration policy of the United States [is] that aliens within the Nation's borders not depend on public resources to meet their needs”; and “[T]he availability of public benefits [is] not [to] constitute an incentive for immigration to the United States.” 8 U.S.C. § 1601(1)-(2).

         Later that year, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-208, § 531, 110 Stat. 3009, 3674-75 (1996) (“IIRIRA”). IIRIRA amended the public charge provision of the INA by codifying five factors that were relevant to public charge determinations: (1) age; (2) health; (3) family status; (4) assets, resources, and financial status; and (5) education and skills. 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(4)(B)(i). IIRIRA also authorized immigration officials to consider affidavits from sponsors that pledged financial support to the noncitizen if admitted. Id. § 1182(a)(4)(B)(ii).

         In 1999, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”), predecessor to USCIS, issued a notice of proposed rulemaking and field guidance defining the term public charge. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Inadmissibility and Deportability on Public Charge Grounds, 64 Fed. Reg. 28, 676 (May 26, 1999) (to be codified at 8 C.F.R. pts. 212 & 237) (“1999 Proposed Rule”); Field Guidance on Deportability and Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, 64 Fed. Reg. 28, 689 (Mar. 26, 1999) (“1999 Field Guidance”). The purpose of the 1999 Rulemaking and Field Guidance was to alleviate “considerable public confusion about whether the receipt of Federal, State, or local public benefits for which an alien may be eligible renders him or her a ‘public charge' under the immigration statutes governing admissibility, adjustment of status, and deportation” following the passage of the Welfare Reform Act and IIRIRA. 1999 Proposed Rule, 64 Fed. Reg. at 28676. The 1999 Proposed Rule and Field Guidance defined the term “public charge” to mean “an alien who is likely to become primarily dependent on the Government for subsistence as demonstrated by either (i) The receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance purposes, or (ii) Institutionalization for long-term care at Government expense (other than imprisonment for conviction of a crime).” 1999 Proposed Rule, 64 Fed. Reg. at 28, 681; 1999 Field Guidance, 64 Fed. Reg. at 28, 689. INS adopted this definition “based on the plain meaning of the word ‘charge,' the historical context of public dependency when the public charge immigration provisions were first enacted more than a century ago, and the expertise of the benefit-granting agencies that deal with subsistence issues.” 1999 Proposed Rule, 64 Fed. Reg. at 28, 677. INS also explained that the “primary dependent” definition was “consistent with factual situations presented in the public charge case law.” Id. Although the 1999 Proposed Rule was never finalized, the 1999 Field Guidance has governed public charge admissibility determinations since that time.

         In 2018, DHS initiated a proposed rulemaking to redefine the public charge admissibility standards. Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, 83 Fed. Reg. 51, 114 (“2018 Proposed Rule”). The 2018 Proposed Rule rescinded the 1999 Proposed Rule and Field Guidance and sought to redefine the term “public charge.” In a 60-day span, DHS received 266, 077 comments, “the vast majority of which opposed the rule.” 84 Fed. Reg. at 41, 297.

         On August 14, 2019, DHS issued the final version of the Public Charge Rule. 84 Fed. Reg. 41, 292. The Rule defines public charge as any noncitizen who is “more likely than not at any time in the future” to “receive[ ] one or more public benefits . . . for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.” 84 Fed. Reg. at 41, 501. The Rule significantly expands the public benefits that are included in this determination, including non-cash benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), Medicaid, and housing assistance programs. Id. Multiple benefits received in one month count as receiving multiple months of benefits. Id. at 41, 401. This determination is made based on a totality of the circumstances, and requires a USCIS officer to consider a list of factors that are “heavily weighted negative, ” “negative, ” “positive, ” and “heavily weighted positive.” Id. at 41, 397. As the basis for its change in position, DHS relies heavily on the policy statements included in the Welfare Reform Act. See, e.g., id. at 41355-56 (“[A]lthough the INA does not mention self-sufficiency in the context of section 212(a)(4) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4), DHS believes that there is a strong connection between the self-sufficiency policy statements elsewhere in Title 8 of the United States Code (even if not codified in the INA itself) at 8 U.S.C. 1601 and the public charge inadmissibility language in section 212(a)(4) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4), which were enacted within a month of each other.”); id. at 41, 366 (“[T]he inclusion of the designated benefits into the public benefits definition, is consistent with congressional statements in 8 U.S.C. 1601 concerning self-sufficiency of foreign nationals.”) The Rule is scheduled to take effect October 15, 2019.

         Plaintiffs brought this challenge arguing that the Rule violates the APA because it is “not in accordance with the law . . . [and] in excess of statutory . . . authority” and is “arbitrary and capricious.” 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A); 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(C). ECF No. 27 at 56-57. Plaintiffs also argue that the Rule violates the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection component of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Id. at 58-60. At issue here is Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction or to postpone the effective date of the Rule during the pendency of this case. ECF No. 28.


         The purpose of a preliminary injunction is “to maintain the status quo and prevent irreparable harm while a lawsuit remains pending.” Pashby v. Delia, 709 F.3d 307, 319 (4th Cir. 2013). To obtain a preliminary injunction, the plaintiff must “establish that (1) he is likely to succeed on the merits, (2) he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) the balance of equities tips in his favor, and (4) an injunction is in the public interest.” Winter v. Natural Res. Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008); see Dewhurst v. Century Aluminum Co., 649 F.3d 287, 290 (4th Cir. 2011). The plaintiff must satisfy each requirement as articulated. Real Truth About Obama, Inc. v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 575 F.3d 342, 347 (4th Cir. 2009), vacated and remanded on other grounds, 559 U.S. 1089 (2010). Where the government is a party, the final two factors merge. See Kravitz v. U.S. Dep't of Commerce, 366 F.Supp.3d 681, 755 (D. Md. 2019) (quoting Pursuing Am. Greatness v. FEC, 831 F.3d 500, 511 (D.C. Cir. 2016). As a preliminary injunction is “an extraordinary remedy, ” it “may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief.” Winter, 555 U.S. at 22.

         Section 705 of the APA authorizes a court to stay the effective date of an administrative rule pending judicial review to prevent irreparable harm. 5 U.S.C. § 705 (“On such conditions as may be required and to the extent necessary to prevent irreparable injury, the reviewing court . . . may issue all necessary and appropriate process to postpone the effective date of an agency action or to preserve status or rights pending conclusion of the review proceedings.”) Courts apply the same factors regarding a motion for a preliminary injunction discussed above to an application for a Section 705 stay. See Texas v. EPA, 829 F.3d 405, 424, 435 (5th Cir. 2016); Humane Soc'y of United States v. Gutierrez, 558 F.3d 896, 896 (9th Cir. 2009); Schwartz v. Covington, 341 F.2d 537, 538 (9th Cir. 1965); Assoc. Sec. Corp. v. SEC, 283 F.2d 773, 774-75 (10th Cir. 1960); Virginia Petroleum Jobbers Ass'n v. Fed. Power Comm'n, 259 F.2d 921, 925 (D.C. Cir. 1958) (per curiam); Cronin v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 919 F.2d 439, 446 (7th Cir. 1990) (“The standard is the same whether a preliminary injunction against agency action . . . or a stay of that action is being sought . . .”).

         I. Justiciability

         This Court may adjudicate only “cases” and “controversies.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. This “constraint of Article III” has two distinct but overlapping facets that must be satisfied for a federal district court to have subject matter jurisdiction: standing (which addresses who may sue) and ripeness (which addresses the timing of when a party may bring a suit). See South Carolina v. United States, 912 F.3d 720, 730 (4th Cir. 2019) (quoting Scoggins v. Lee's Crossing Homeowners Ass'n, 718 F.3d 262, 269 (4th Cir. 2013)). The analysis of both issues is similar. See Id. (citing Miller v. Brown, 462 F.3d 312, 319 (4th Cir. 2006) (citing Erwin Chemerinsky, Federal Jurisdiction § 2.4 (4th ed. 2003))).

         A. Standing

         Defendants argue that CASA and the Individual Plaintiffs do not have standing, and therefore this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. ECF No. 52 at 7-9. Each of the elements of standing “must be supported in the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, i.e., with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive stages of the litigation.” Overbey v. Mayor of Baltimore, 930 F.3d 215, 227 (4th Cir. 2019) (quoting Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992)). “Thus, when a defendant challenges a plaintiff's standing, we analyze the challenge differently depending on the stage of litigation at which the challenge is brought and the substance of the defendant's arguments.” Id. When, as here, “‘standing is challenged on the pleadings, [the court will] accept as true all material allegations of the complaint and construe the complaint in favor of the complaining party.'” Deal v. Mercer Cty. Bd. of Educ., 911 F.3d 183, 187 (4th Cir. 2018) (quoting S. Walk at Broadlands Homeowner's Ass'n, Inc. v. OpenBand at Broadlands, LLC, 713 F.3d 175, 181-82 (4th Cir. 2013)). Therefore, to analyze standing, the plaintiffs' allegations in their complaint will be accepted as true.

         To establish standing, a plaintiff must have “suffered an ‘injury in fact' that is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical, ” “fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, ” and “likely . . . [to] be redressed by a favorable decision.” Bishop v. Bartlett, 575 F.3d 419, 423 (4th Cir. 2009)); see also Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992) (same).

         An organization can establish standing in either or both of two ways: representational standing for harms to its members and organizational standing for harms that it suffers. To establish representational standing, an organization must establish that: “(1) its own members would have standing to sue in their own right; (2) the interests the organization seeks to protect are germane to the organization's purpose; and (3) neither the claim nor the relief sought requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit.” S. Walk, 713 F.3d at 184. “[T]o show that its members would have standing, an organization must make specific allegations establishing that at least one identified member had suffered or would suffer harm.” Id.

         To establish organizational standing, an organization must establish that it “suffer[ed] an injury in fact when a defendant's actions impede its efforts to carry out its mission.” Lane v. Holder, 703 F.3d 668, 675 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363, 379 (1982)); see also Valle de Sol Inc. v. Whiting, 732 F.3d 1006, 1018 (9th Cir. 2013) (“An organization has ‘direct standing to sue [when] it show[s] a drain on its resources from both a diversion of its resources and frustration of its mission.'”) (quoting Fair Hous. Council of San Fernando Valley v., LLC, 666 F.3d 1216, 1219 (9th Cir.2012)); National Taxpayers Union, Inc. v. United States, 68 F.3d 1428, 1433 (D. C. Cir. 1995) (“[T]he organization must allege that discrete programmatic concerns are being directly and adversely affected by the challenged action”) (quoting American Legal Foundation v. FCC, 808 F.2d 84, 91 (D.C.Cir.1987)). “[A]n injury to organizational purpose, without more, does not provide a basis for standing.” S. Walk, 713 F.3d at 183. And a diversion of resources does not constitute a harm if “it results not from any actions taken by [the defendant], but rather from the [organization's] own budgetary choices.” Lane, 703 F.3d at 675 (quoting Fair Emp't Council of Greater Washington, Inc. v. BMC Mktg. Corp., 28 F.3d 1268, 1276 (D.C.Cir.1994)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         CASA alleges that it has suffered an injury in fact because the Public Charge Rule frustrates its mission and diverts its resources. CASA's mission is “to create a more just society by building power and improving the quality of life in low-income immigrant communities.” ECF No. 27 at ¶ 14. CASA offers social, health, job training, employment, and legal services to immigrant communities in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Id. CASA alleges that its mission has been frustrated, as it “has had to shift its organizational focus from an affirmative posture-seeking to improve conditions for immigrant families (for example, by lobbying state legislatures to enact laws expanding medical benefits available to immigrants)-to a defensive one-seeking to mitigate the harm of the Public Charge Rule on the communities it serves.” Id. at ¶ 123. Likewise, CASA alleges that it “has incurred significant costs in advising its members” on the Public Charge Rule and “will continue to incur such costs” while the Public Charge Rule is in effect. ECF No. 27 at ¶ 121. For example, CASA states that is has “devoted significant resources to educating its members about the Rule and its expected impacts on immigrant families.” Id. at ¶ 15. “This diversion of resources has come at the expense of other time-sensitive work; for example, reducing advocacy for health-care expansion efforts at the state level in Maryland and at the local level in Prince George's County, Maryland. Id. at ¶ 123. CASA is also “redirect[ing] its resources to ensure that its members who are chilled from participating in public benefits programs have access to the supportive services they need to thrive.” Id. at ¶ 124.

         In Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, the Supreme Court affirmed the Fourth Circuit's finding that an organizational plaintiff, HOME, had standing where the organization's mission had been frustrated by the defendants' racial steering practices. 455 U.S. 363, 366, 370 (1982). HOME's mission was “to make equal opportunity in housing a reality in the Richmond Metropolitan Area” and its membership was “multi-racial and include[d] approximately 600 individuals.” Id. at 368. HOME's activities “included the operation of a housing counseling service, and the investigation and referral of complaints concerning housing discrimination.” Id. HOME alleged that it was “frustrated by defendants' racial steering practices in its efforts to assist equal access to housing through counseling and other referral services” and that it “had to devote significant resources to identify and counteract the defendant's [sic] racially discriminatory steering practices.” Id. at 379. Based on these allegations, the Supreme Court found that “there can be no question that the organization has suffered injury in fact” and that “[s]uch concrete and demonstrable injury to the organization's activities-with the consequent drain on the organization's resources-constitutes far more than simply a setback to the organization's abstract social interests . . . .” Id.

         The injury in Havens Realty is similar to CASA's injury here. Both organizations were focused on improving opportunities for marginalized communities; both conducted a variety of activities to further that mission including counseling members; and both alleged that they had to spend significant resources to counteract the effect of the defendants' actions, which they viewed as inimical to their organizations' missions.

         Several recent decisions from this Court also support CASA's standing. In Casa De Md. v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., this Court found that the very same organizational plaintiff- CASA-had standing to challenge the proposed rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program on the grounds that it violated the APA and the Fifth Amendment. 284 F.Supp.3d 758, 771 (D. Md. 2018) aff'd in part, vacated in part on other grounds, rev'd in part on other grounds, 924 F.3d 684 (4th Cir. 2019).[4] In finding that CASA had organizational standing, the court noted, “Casa De Maryland . . . [is] . . . directly focused on aiding immigrants and their communities. The fact that one of their primary functions has been assisting their members with ‘tens of thousands of DACA initial and renewal applications' is sufficient for standing in and of itself.” Id. The same is true here. CASA has advised over one thousand of its members on the impacts of the Public Charge Rule, which adopts a sweeping expansion of the definition of the term public charge and uproots over two decades of agency policy. The immediacy of the Rule's scheduled effective date has forced CASA to “redirect its resources to ensure that its members who are chilled from participating in public benefits programs have access to the supportive services they need to thrive.” ECF No. 27 at ¶¶ 122, 124.

         Similarly, in Baltimore v. Trump, this Court found that Baltimore had standing to challenge the State Department's changes to the Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”) relating to the public charge inadmissibility ground[5] because the City was “compelled to reallocate its finite resources in response to the FAM for the purpose of combatting the injurious effects that the FAM will have on its residents, and the public programs it administers” at the expense of other public programs. 18-cv-3636-ELH, 2019 WL 4598011, at *18 (D. Md. Sept. 20, 2019). The same principle applies here. CASA has reallocated its finite resources including 15 part-time health promoters and 15 to 20 community organizers to address the effects of the Public Charge Rule at the expense of other time-sensitive activities, including lobbying efforts at the state and local level in Maryland. See ECF No. 27 at ¶¶ 122-24.

         The Government argues that CASA has voluntarily diverted its resources, and this does not constitute an injury because it was the result of CASA's “own budgetary choices.” ECF No. 52 at 8-9 (quoting Lane, 703 F.3d at 674). Further, the Government argues that there was no genuine diversion because CASA is in the business of educating immigrant communities about relevant immigration laws and providing legal education services, and the funds spent were in line with CASA's core mission. Id. at 9. But this argument is too clever by half, as it ignores the fact that the only reason for CASA's reallocation of its resources is that DHS has adopted a definition of the public charge rule that is dramatically more threatening to its members, and, in response, CASA has had to divert resources that otherwise would have been expended to improve the lives of its members in ways unrelated to the issues raised by the public charge inquiry. Thus, the circumstances in this case differ from those in cases where there was no standing because the organization elected to allocate its resources in furtherance of its core mission. In Lane, two individual plaintiffs and an organization challenged federal and state laws that restricted the interstate transfer of handguns. 703 F.3d at 669. The organization alleged that it had suffered an injury in fact because its resources were “taxed by inquiries into the operation and consequences of interstate handgun transfer provisions.” Id. at 675. The Fourth Circuit found that this “mere expense” did not constitute an injury in fact because it was a budgetary choice. Id. But unlike the organization in Lane, CASA alleges that the diversion of its resources frustrated its mission by preventing it from continuing an affirmative advocacy posture, including, for example, advocating on public health issues at the state and local level in Maryland. See ECF No. 27 at ¶¶ 122-24. Thus, CASA's allegations are more like those in Havens Realty, Casa De Md. v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., and Baltimore v. Trump.

         Therefore, based on CASA's allegations in its complaint, taken as true for the purposes of this motion, CASA has established injury in fact. The injuries are also fairly traceable to the Defendant's actions in enacting the Public Charge Rule. But for the Rule, CASA's mission would not have been frustrated and its resources would not have been diverted as alleged. The alleged injury also can be redressed by Plaintiffs' proposed relief of setting aside the Rule as unlawful and enjoining DHS from enforcing the Rule. Therefore, CASA has established organizational standing.

         Because this Court finds that CASA has organizational standing, it need not consider whether it also has representational standing or whether the Individual Plaintiffs have standing. See Bostic v. Schaefer, 760 F.3d 352, 370 (4th Cir. 2014) (“‘[T]he presence of one party with standing is sufficient to satisfy Article III's case-or-controversy requirement.'”) (quoting Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic & Institutional Rights, Inc., 547 U.S. 47, 52 n.2 (2006)). Those issues will be addressed when the Court rules on any motion to dismiss that the Defendants may file.

         B. Ripeness

         “To determine whether the case is ripe, we ‘balance the fitness of the issues for judicial decision with the hardship to the parties of withholding court consideration.'” Miller v. Brown, 462 F.3d 312, 319 (4th Cir. 2006) (quoting Franks v. Ross,313 F.3d 184, 194 (4th Cir. 2002); Ohio Forestry Ass'n v. Sierra Club,523 U.S. 726, 733 (1998)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A case is fit for judicial decision when the issues are purely legal and when the action in controversy is final and not dependent on future uncertainties.” Id. (citing Charter Fed. Sav. Bank v. Office of Thrift Supervision, 976 F.2d 203, 208 (4th Cir. 1992)). “The hardship prong is measured by the immediacy of the threat and the burden imposed on the [plaintiffs] who would be compelled to act under threat of enforcement of the challenged law.” Id. (citing Chart ...

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