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Case Name Cook County, Illinois v. Wolf IM-IL-0024
Docket / Court 1:19-cv-06334 ( N.D. Ill. )
State/Territory Illinois
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Case Summary
This case is one of several brought nationwide by States, counties, and nonprofit organizations challenging the Trump administration's revised, final public charge rule, which expands the types of programs that the federal government will consider in public charge determinations to now also include ... read more >
This case is one of several brought nationwide by States, counties, and nonprofit organizations challenging the Trump administration's revised, final public charge rule, which expands the types of programs that the federal government will consider in public charge determinations to now also include previously excluded health, nutrition, and housing programs. In the fall of 2019, district court judges from across the countries granted preliminary injunctions enjoining the government from implementing the public charge rule. But after multiple Circuit Courts and the Supreme Court issued stays of these injunctions, the public charge rule was implemented by the government on February 24, 2020. As of March 2019, the government's appeals of these injunctions are pending in the Circuit Courts.

On September 23, 2019, Cook County, Illinois, and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Inc., represented by private counsel, filed this suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiffs sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its acting secretary in his official capacity, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and its acting secretary in his official capacity, under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The plaintiffs sought relief to declare the Department of Homeland Security’s Final Rule ("the Rule") unlawful and invalid due to violations of the APA and unconstitutional due to violations of the Equal Protection Clause. The plaintiffs also sought to preliminarily and permanently enjoin the Rule from being enforced in the state of Illinois.

On August 14, 2019, the DHS published a revised, final public charge rule, which defines personal circumstances that affect the ability of individuals and their families to successfully enter the U.S. or acquire legal permanent resident status (i.e., get a green card). The final rule increases the types of programs that the federal government will consider in public charge determinations to now also include previously excluded health, nutrition, and housing programs. The Immigration and Nationality Act provides that if an immigration officer finds that a person seeking a visa is likely to become a public charge, that person is “inadmissible.” Thus, an immigrant who uses non-cash benefits such as food stamps or Medicaid may be found more likely to be a public charge and inadmissible for purposes of a visa or green card application. The plaintiffs asserted that the effect of this Rule would be to force immigrant families to choose between using these benefits or risk failing to gain permanent resident status.

The plaintiffs contended that the defendants violated the APA in exceeding their statutory authority by redefining the term "public charge" and contravened existing law by considering public benefits that have been explicitly and repeatedly excluded from public charge determinations. Furthermore, the plaintiffs claimed that that Rule was arbitrary and capricious because defendants failed to justify their departure from settled practice, failed to adequately consider the Rule's varied and extensive harms, and because the Rule's complex rules will lead to arbitrary enforcement. The plaintiffs also argued that the Rule violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by discriminating against people with disabilities and that the Rule violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Additionally, the plaintiffs asserted that the Rule will have a chilling effect on immigrant communities, "causing individuals to forgo critical public benefits—an impact that will cause devastating, irreparable harm to children, families, and public health in Cook County and throughout Illinois." The plaintiffs argued that immigrant families will disenroll in federal health and assistance programs, leading to adverse health, economic, and productivity results, and placing a heavy burden and strain on County agencies and programs.

On September 25, 2019, after originally being assigned to Judge John Robert Blakey, the case was reassigned to Judge Gary Feinerman. On the same day, the plaintiffs filed an emergency motion for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction (PI) or stay. With the Rule set to go in effect on October 15, 2019, the plaintiffs sought immediate injunctive relief or a stay enjoining the defendants from implementing the Rule. The plaintiffs claimed that they were likely to succeed on their claim under the APA, that they would suffer irreparable harm absent immediate injunctive relief, and that the balance of equities and public interest weigh strongly in favor of an immediate injunction or stay to maintain the status quo.

On October 8, 2019, the defendants filed an opposition to the plaintiffs' emergency motion. The defendants argued that the court should deny the motion because the plaintiffs are a governmental entity and a group of organizations serving immigrants, rather than persons actually affected by the rule, and thus cannot meet jurisdictional requirements. The defendants also asserted that the plaintiffs' claims are meritless, that "the Rule accords with the longstanding meaning of 'public charge' and complies with the APA" and that plaintiffs' "disagreements are ultimately with the wisdom of the policy, a judgment allocated to the political branches."

A few days later the defendants filed a supplemental memorandum in opposition to the plaintiffs' emergency motion. On October 11, orders by the United States District Courts for the Southern District of New York and Eastern District of Washington preliminarily enjoined the defendants from implementing the Rule nationwide, including Illinois. The defendants asserted that the plaintiffs could no longer claim that they will suffer irreparable harm absent a PI and thus a PI at this time is inappropriate.

Notwithstanding these nationwide PIs, on October 14, 2019, Judge Feinerman granted the plaintiffs' motion and enjoined the defendants from implementing the Rule in the State of Illinois. Judge Feinerman concluded that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claim that the Rule conflicts with the Supreme Court’s formulation of public charge, in violation of the APA. Judge Feinerman further concluded that the plaintiffs have demonstrated irreparable harm in the absence of a PI and that the balance of harms favors the plaintiffs. 417 F.Supp.3d 1008.

Soon after, on October 25, 2019, the defendants filed a motion to stay the PI pending appeal. The defendants argued that they were likely to succeed on appeal and that they would suffer irreparable harm absent a stay from being compelled to grant lawful permanent residence to persons who would likely become a public charge under the Rule. The defendants appealed the PI to the Seventh Circuit on October 30, 2019. Judge Feinerman denied the defendants' motion on November 14, 2019.

On December 23, 2019, a Seventh Circuit panel denied the defendants' motion to stay the PI pending appeal. The Seventh Circuit's decision was in contrast to a Ninth Circuit order staying a nationwide PI, which also enjoined the implementation of the Rule, pending appeal.

Back in the district court, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on January 16, 2020. The defendants argued that in light of a Ninth Circuit opinion concluding that the Rule falls within the defendants' discretion to interpret and implement the meaning of public charge and that the Supreme Court has not set a fixed definition of public charge, the plaintiffs' complaint should be dismissed. Plaintiffs', in opposition to the motion, maintained that the Rule "is inconsistent with the plain meaning of the statutory text, and DHS does not, and cannot, offer justification for this transformation of well-settled law" and will impose significant costs oon the plaintiffs.

The Supreme Court weighed in to provide clarity to the several, overlapping PIs enjoining the implementation of the Rule that had been issued across the country. On January 27, 2020, ruling in State of New York v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Justice Gorsuch stayed the Southern District of New York's nationwide PI regarding the Rule, concluding that the "routine issuance of universal injunctions is patently unworkable, sowing chaos for litigants, the government, courts, and all those affected by these conflicting decisions." However, the Supreme Court declined to stay the Northern District of Illinois' PI because it applied only to the state of Illinois. 140 S.Ct. 599.

Following the Supreme Court's order to stay the nationwide PI, on January 28, 2020, the defendants filed a renewed motion to the Seventh Circuit to stay the district court's PI. The defendants argued that "in light of the Supreme Court's decision holding that a stay pending appeal of injunctions against enforcement of this Rule is appropriate," the Seventh Circuit should issue a stay pending appeal to allow the Rule to go into effect in Illinois. A Seventh Circuit panel denied the renewed motion for stay on February 10, 2020, without issuing an opinion or explanation for its conclusion. Instead, the Seventh Circuit issued an expedited briefing schedule to ensure prompt consideration of the PI.

On February 13, 2020, the defendants filed an application to the Supreme Court for a stay pending appeal. The defendants contended that the Seventh Circuit "stands alone in finding a stay unwarranted;" the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, along with the Supreme Court in an appeal pending in the Second Circuit, stayed "materially identical" PIs. The defendants further asserted that, even though the PI here was distinguishable because it was not nationwide, the Supreme Court indicated in its January 27 order that "challenges to the Rule will be unsuccessful and that even a more limited injunction would impose irreparable harm on the government."

On February 21, 2020, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, granted the defendants' application for stay and issued an order staying the district court's PI pending disposition of the appeal in the Seventh Circuit. The majority did not file an opinion in support of its decision. Justice Sotomayor, dissenting, concluded that "the Government’s only claimed hardship is that it must enforce an existing interpretation of an immigration rule in one State—just as it has done for the past 20 years—while an updated version of the rule takes effect in the remaining 49," which was not enough to satisfy its "especially heavy burden." 140 S.Ct. 681.

On May 19, Judge Feinerman issued a memorandum opinion and order denying defendants' motion to dismiss and concluding that plaintiffs are entitled to discovery on its equal protection claim. First, Judge Feinerman denied defendants' claims that plaintiffs "lack standing or fall outside the pertinent zone of interests, that this suit is not ripe, or that the APA claims fail as a matter of law," as the court already addressed those issues in its preliminary injunction opinion. Moreover, Judge Feinerman found that plaintiffs' equal protection claim survived a dismissal claim, as the allegation "that the Final Rule’s disproportionate impact on nonwhite immigrants motivated its promulgation is eminently plausible." Judge Feinerman further concluded that discovery on plaintiffs' equal protection claim was justified because plaintiffs' made a "strong showing that the Rule was developed and promulgated 'at least in part because of' a substantial and impermissible reason not reflected in the administrative record—the Rule’s disproportionate 'adverse effects upon' nonwhite immigrants."

Disposition of the government's appeal of the district court's PI is currently pending in the Seventh Circuit. More coming soon.

Aaron Gurley - 02/27/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Benefit Source
Food stamps
Medicaid
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Government Services (specify)
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Immigration/Border
Visas - criteria
Plaintiff Type
City/County Plaintiff
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Ex Parte Young (Federal) or Bivens
Defendant(s) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Plaintiff Description Cook County, Illinois and Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a group of organizations supporting immigrants and refugees.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2019 - n/a
Filed 09/23/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
1:19-cv-06334 (N.D. Ill.)
IM-IL-0024-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/29/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-IL-0024-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/23/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 86] (417 F.Supp.3d 1008) (N.D. Ill.)
IM-IL-0024-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/14/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Application for a Stay of the Injunction Issued by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
IM-IL-0024-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/01/2020
Source: Bloomberg Law
On Application for Stay (140 S.Ct. 681)
IM-IL-0024-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/21/2020
Source: Bloomberg Law
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 150] (2020 WL 2542155) (N.D. Ill.)
IM-IL-0024-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/19/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Feinerman, Gary Scott (N.D. Ill.) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-0002 | IM-IL-0024-0005 | IM-IL-0024-9000
Sotomayor, Sonia (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-0004
Plaintiff's Lawyers Arguello, Juan Carlos (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-9000
Carter, Meghan Patricia (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-0001 | IM-IL-0024-9000
Chapman, Caroline Goodwin (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-0001 | IM-IL-0024-9000
Dashan, Nanshelmun Ruth (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-0001 | IM-IL-0024-9000
Flint, Tacy F. (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-0001 | IM-IL-0024-9000
Fransisco, Noel J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-0003
Gordon, David Andrew (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-0001 | IM-IL-0024-9000
Kearney, Jesse L (Arkansas) show/hide docs
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Kovach, Andrea Marie (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Levy, Steven A. (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Lopez, Militza Marie Pagan (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Miller, Lauren Elizabeth (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Morrison, David E. (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Ono, Takayuki (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Ostolaza, Yvette (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-0001 | IM-IL-0024-9000
Scheller, Jessica Megan (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Svatek, Marlow Elizabeth (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Velevis, Robert (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-0001 | IM-IL-0024-9000
Walz, Katherine Elizabeth (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-0001 | IM-IL-0024-9000
Wexler, A. Colin (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cholera, Kuntal (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Kolsky, Joshua (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Lynch, Jason C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Soskin, Eric J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Other Lawyers Aguilar, Diana A. (California) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-9000
Brookstein, Mark Douglas (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-9000
Escoriaza, Phillip A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-9000
Hirsch, Rebecca (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Kane, Stephen J. (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Michael, David N. (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Olowski, Lew (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Ray, Sarah M. (California) show/hide docs
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Roth, Charles G. (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Shestokas, David John (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Sprague, Charles Ferer (California) show/hide docs
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Virgien, Kyle A. (California) show/hide docs
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Waters, Edward T. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Zubick, Marc N. (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-IL-0024-9000

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