WASHINGTON — The fate of thousands of immigrants is in the hands of a few judges across the country.
One in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland heard the case of immigration advocates with CASA Thursday, who pleaded against the "Inadmissibility by Public Charge" rule slated to take effect on October 15.
"It's the biggest change in the legal immigration system since the 1960s, and it will only serve to exclude people who previously would have been included," immigration attorney Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg with the Legal Aid Justice Center said.
According to the Homeland Security's website, "the final rule changes the definitions for public charge and public benefits, and changes the standard that DHS uses when determining whether an alien is likely to become a “public charge” at any time in the future and is therefore inadmissible and ineligible for admission or adjustment of status."
A "public charge" basically means that a person needs food stamps or will need to go on welfare to live.
The change in policy states that officials can deny a green card if an applicant is likely to become a public charge within any 12 months in a 36-month period.
“We have dozens and dozens of clients who were affected by this," Sandoval-Moshenberg said. "Over the course of many years, it'll affect hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people who are trying to get green cards."
He said the rule largely affects families.
CASA hoped to sway the judge against this change during Thursday's hearing.
"Today CASA's members and its outstanding legal partners stood proud in a federal courtroom challenging an administration intent on disenfranchising millions of low income immigrants from accessing needed services," George Escobar, Chief of Programs and Services at CASA, said in a statement. “We are proud of the efforts put forth by our team in defense of our members and look forward to a just decision from the court."
A spokesperson with CASA said the judge promised a verdict before Oct. 15.
"It shows that really what they're concerned with is reducing immigration period, whether legal or illegal," Sandoval-Moshenber said.
He said the Legal Aid Justice Center will host a forum on Tuesday to talk through next steps.