Cook County’s government and a prominent advocacy group sued President Donald Trump’s administration over its planned changes to immigration rules this week, adding to a long list of local governments and organizations that already have sought to block a controversial policy slated to take effect this fall.
The federal government’s new “public charge” rule could deny green cards to legal immigrants who receive public aid such as food stamps, Medicaid, or housing subsidies.
But those changes would harm both the county and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, according to a federal complaint filed Monday against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the office of Citizenship and Immigration Services and top federal officials. The rule will go into effect Oct. 15, but Illinois already is one of a large group of states that filed a joint federal lawsuit seeking to halt the policy this summer.
The new, county-led lawsuit argues the rule would decrease enrollment in benefit programs, increase costs to local government and harm the county’s economy. At particular risk, the lawsuit argues, is Cook County’s health and hospital system.
“The Trump Administration is penalizing diversity and threatening our public health,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said in a statement on Tuesday. “Immigrant families should not live in constant fear and forgo public resources to access food, housing, and health care. My office is committed to keeping our community safe and secure, and we are proud to stand up to these discriminatory attacks.”
According to the suit, the Trump administration rule would cause the health and hospitals system and its CountyCare insurance plan to lose revenue while also creating “increased uncompensated care costs” for the health system that would risk “jeopardizing the fiscal stability of the health system and threatening the healthcare safety net serving the entire County.”
The rule also would create an “increased burden” on the county health department and housing authority, according to the lawsuit, while reducing federal funds that support the county’s economy.
The county health and hospitals system already estimates it will spend nearly $550 million on uncompensated care — services the system is not reimbursed for by other revenue sources — this year. That’s a jump of 73 percent from 2014, according to the county, and marks the highest such expense since Medicaid expanded in the county under the Affordable Care Act.
The lawsuit alleges additional enrollment hits to Medicaid, and the Medicaid-backed CountyCare health program, would “further strain CCH finances” through a loss in reimbursements and an increase in uncompensated care costs. CountyCare and the health system’s finances have been the subject of an extended fight between county officials and its inspector general this year.
The lawsuit wants a judge to declare the Trump administration’s rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act, and block the federal government from implementing the rule in Illinois.
“Immigrants are part of the diverse fabric that makes Cook County strong and vibrant,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement. “It is absolutely imperative that we protect our friends and neighbors from the discrimination at the hands of the Trump Administration.”