Nearly every day, it seems, brings another example of Attorney General William Tong reaching far beyond Connecticut’s borders to take action on something national in scope. This has earned him a reputation early in his term as someone for whom — as was once said of a former longtime holder of his position, current U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal — the most dangerous place to be is between him and a TV camera.
Maybe there’s some truth to that. It’s also undeniable that Tong is taking so many of these actions because the threats to our values and our laws are legitimate and they are growing. And they are coming from the White House.
The latest move under dispute would allow officials to deny a change in immigration status to any individual who has received public assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid or housing assistance, in the last three years. In the past, the rule only applied to individuals who depended on cash assistance or government-funded long-term institutional care.
An estimated 200,000 Connecticut residents who have legally been in the country could lose their benefits and their path to citizenship under the new Trump administration rule. A Connecticut lawsuit, one of 60 that are challenging the rule, was filed this week in New York.
Deidre Gifford, the interim commissioner of the state Department of Social Services, said the rule would lead to eligible and needy families, including those with children who are U.S. citizens, going without food, housing and medical services. She called it a “particularly cruel form of discrimination against legal immigrants of lesser means.”
“Particularly cruel” is a relative term when it comes to Trump administration initiatives. This is a White House that is looking to change the rules to keep migrant families in detention indefinitely, to name just the latest in a long line of outrages.
And it’s the latest action that Tong, in his position as top law enforcement officer in the state of Connecticut, has tried to fight. It follows promised action against a proposal to undercut the Endangered Species Act, as well as on issues ranging from the census and pollution to overtime protections and collective bargaining.
Tong said when he ran for the position that he would stand up to the Trump administration, and he has followed through on that promise.
On the immigration question, Tong is right that the change would bring harm that would far surpass any potential benefit. “If you have a green card … and you just needed a little bit of help …, if you got that assistance for a 12-month period you could lose your ability to be a green-card holder,” he said.
The economic impact on Connecticut would be severe. But more than that, it’s a moral issue. As with so much of what comes out of Trump’s White House, it’s worth fighting back because we are better than this. If filing a lawsuit is the best way to push back, then that’s what needs to be done.