Judicial Watch Files for Temporary Restraining Order Enjoining Governor Newsom’s Initiative to Provide $75 Million in Cash Benefits to Illegal Aliens


(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today it has filed an application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against California Governor Gavin Newsom and his Director of the California Department of Social Services Kim Johnson to restrain them from spending $79.8 million dollars of taxpayers’ money to provide direct cash benefits to unlawfully present aliens (Crest et al. v. Newsom et al. (No. 20STCV16321)). Judicial Watch attorneys are asking the California Superior Court to hold a hearing on the TRO on May 5.

Judicial Watch argues in its TRO application that the court should preserve the status quo by restraining the State’s public officials from spending any taxpayer money on his executive initiative, known as the “Disaster Relief Fund” or the “Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants Project (DRAIP),” and “prevent this manifest abuse of power before it’s too late to do so.”

Judicial Watch advises the court that an emergency temporary restraining order is necessary because starting imminently in May, Newsom plans to have the Department of Social Service distribute $75 million of taxpayer funds in direct cash benefits to unlawfully present aliens in violation of federal law.

In its April 29 lawsuit on behalf of California taxpayers, Robin Crest and Howard Myers, Judicial Watch alleges that Newsom overstepped his authority and violated federal law when, without affirmative state legislative approval, he took executive action to create DRAIP and provide cash benefits to individuals who otherwise are ineligible for state or federal insurance or other benefits due to their unlawful presence in the United States.

In its application to the court today, Judicial Watch tells the court: “A temporary restraining order to preserve the status quo is warranted because taxpayers can demonstrate that they are likely to succeed on the merits and … will suffer an immediate, irreparable harm without the order.”

Governor Newsom announced his new executive initiative on April 15, 2020. The initiative would spend $75 million to provide direct cash payments to illegal aliens and cost an estimated additional $4.8 million to administer. DRAIP would provide one-time cash benefits of $500 per adult / $1,000 per household to 150,000 unlawfully present aliens in California. These benefits are not to be provided to U.S. citizens or legal aliens residing in the state, according to an April 17 fact sheet issued by the California Department of Social Services, the “Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants Fact Sheet,” which reiterates that only unlawfully present aliens are eligible for direct assistance.

Under federal immigration law, 8 U.S.C. § 1621(a), unlawfully present aliens generally are ineligible for State or local public benefits. Section 1621(d) requires a state legislature to enact a state law that affirmatively provides for such benefits for illegal aliens:

A State may provide that an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States is eligible for any State or local public benefit … only through the enactment of a State law … which affirmatively provides for such eligibility.

The Judicial Watch lawsuit alleges that the California State Legislature has not enacted any law which affirmatively provides that unlawfully present aliens are eligible for the $75 million of cash public benefits announced by Newsom.

Governor Newsom intends to fund his initiative with $16.5 million from the Rapid Response Program, which the Legislature created and funded in June 2019 as part of the Budget Act of 2019, and $63.3 million from a March 17, 2020 amendment to the Budget Act of 2019 that references his March 4, 2020 proclamation declaring a state of emergency. Judicial Watch explains to the court today in its application for a temporary restraining order that the governor derives no authority from these legislative actions to spend the money for his executive initiative and therefore should grant a TRO:

[N]either the proclamation nor the budget amendment makes an express or even an implied reference to authorizing direct cash benefits to unlawfully present aliens. Similarly, neither the Rapid Response Program nor the appropriation of monies for that program makes any reference, express or implied, to authorizing direct cash benefits to unlawfully present aliens. Indeed, the California State Legislature has not enacted any state law which affirmatively provides that unlawfully present aliens are eligible for the cash public benefits of $75 million.

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The enactment appropriating funds to the Rapid Response Program further confirms that the Legislature did not expressly authorize direct cash benefits to unlawfully present aliens or anyone else.

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This Court should preserve the status quo where those funds remain in the state’s treasury, grant a temporary restraining order, and issue an order directing the Governor and his Director of the Department of Social Services to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not be entered.

“Judicial Watch’s taxpayer clients asked for a temporary restraining order because Governor Newsom plans to rush plainly illegal direct cash payments, using taxpayer dollars, to illegal aliens,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The governor has no legal authority on his own to spend state taxpayer money for cash payments to illegal aliens, and coronavirus doesn’t give him or any other politician a pass to violate the law.”

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