After securing basic necessities for migrant children, Herring pivots to undercut Trump's attack on legal immigrants

By Davis Burroughs
August 16, 2019

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is becoming one of the biggest thorns in President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration agenda.

On Wednesday, Herring announced he is co-leading a new lawsuit against Trump’s controversial overhaul of federal “public charge” rules that target legal immigration.

Then, on Thursday, a federal appeals court sided with Herring and other AGs from across the country, who previously argued that the federal government must provide detained migrant children with basic supplies like soap, toothbrushes, sleeping mats and clean bathrooms.

If the new lawsuit is successful, Trump might have a new wall to worry about when it comes to immigration — Mark Herring.

Migrant Children have a right to toothbrushes and soap

Thursday’s ruling settled a months-long debate that sparked national controversy after a lawyer in Trump’s Justice Department defended unhygienic living conditions and the lack of toothbrushes and other necessities provided to detained migrant children. The video of the lawyer’s comments, which Herring and others have called “inhumane,” has been viewed 22 million times.

A three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed.

“Assuring that children eat enough edible food, drink clean water, are housed in hygienic facilities with sanitary bathrooms, have soap and toothpaste, and are not sleep-deprived are without doubt essential to the children’s safety,” Judge Berzon wrote for the panel.

Herring: New rule designed to deport non-white, legal immigrants

Though Herring says he’s not done working to protect migrant children, the attorney general has pivoted to focus on bringing down a new set of rules aimed at legal immigrants that were announced Wednesday by former Virginia Attorney General Gov. Ken Cuccinelli (R). Cuccinelli now works for Trump as acting director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The new CIS rules expand the Trump Administration’s ability to deny green cards or visa renewals to any legal immigrant person that uses — or that government thinks might someday use — certain public benefit programs like food and housing assistance.

In the 169-page complaint, Herring and 12 other AGs said that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security conceded the change will “deter legally present visa holders from using important assistance programs.” 

“This rule will not lead to greater opportunities or prosperity,” Herring said in a press release. “It will lead to greater suffering and sickness as legal immigrants avoid food, housing, and healthcare assistance for fear of being swept up in the Trump Administration’s deportation machine.”

In defense of the rule, Cucinelli twisted Emma Lazarus’ famous words inscribed on a bronze plaque at the Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,” Cuccinelli said Tuesday. Public charge refers to anyone who relies on the government for assistance, even for a short time.

The actual words are much more welcoming: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

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