DHS Public Charge Rule in Effect Nationwide after Appellate Court Halts Effort to Stop Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh District stayed a decision made by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division that would have effectively voided the DHS Public Charge Rule nationwide. Immigrant families remain at risk of being considered a “public charge” and being denied visas or green cards if they need support for safe and affordable housing, food assistance, or health care (see Memo, 08/19/2019). The appellees must respond to the stay request no later than November 17, 2020. 

Cook County of Illinois and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) had filed a lawsuit in September 2019 claiming that the DHS’s final public charge rule violated both the Administrative Procedure Act and the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The district court issued a preliminary injunction that blocked the rule from taking effect in Illinois on October 14, 2019, the day before the rule was set to be implemented. The case made it to the Supreme Court, where the judges lifted the preliminary injunction and similar orders, and the rule was in effect nationwide on February 24, 2020 (see Memo, 03/02).

The plaintiffs (Cook County and ICIRR) filed a motion for a summary judgment on August 31. Since the U.S. District Court panel had already resolved the plaintiffs’ APA’s claim with the preliminary injunction ruling last year, the court allowed for the summary judgment. While DHS had argued that the court should only vacate the final rule in Illinois, the district court agreed with the plaintiffs that the rule must be vacated nationwide. The court stated, “By the APA’s plain terms, then, an agency rule found unlawful in whole is not ‘set aside’ just for certain plaintiffs or geographic areas; rather, the rule ‘shall’ be ‘set aside,’ period.” As a result, on November 2 the U.S. district court granted the plaintiff’s summary judgment vacating the Final rule. However, this victory for advocates lasted only a day as the United States Court of Appeals ordered that the district court’s judgment has administratively stayed.

The plaintiffs/appellees have until November 17, 2020, to file a response to the stay of the vacatur order. Until then, the public charge rule remains in effect nationwide.

The public charge rule has already had a noticeable effect on low-income immigrant families’ enrollment in safety-net programs. According to research published in Health Affairs, there has been a decline of 260,000 children enrolled in Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). “These results suggest that the Trump administration’s public charge announcement could have led to many thousands of eligible, low-income children failing to receive safety-net support during a severe health and economic crisis,” state the study’s authors.

NLIHC will continue to inform readers on the status of this litigation and the efforts across the nation to oppose the Public Charge Rule.

It is important to note that the Public Charge Rule will not apply to testing, screening, or treatment of communicable diseases including COVID-19

Cook County of Illinois is represented by lawyers from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Civil Actions Bureau and Goldberg Kohn.

ICIRR is represented by the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Legal Council for Health Justice, National Housing Law Project, and Sidley Austin LLP.

The preliminary injunction on the DOS Public Charge rule remains in effect nationwide.

The Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) campaign has a variety of resources in various languages to ensure impacted communities and service providers understand their rights and the potential implications of the rule.

Read the Summary Judgement from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division at: https://bit.ly/3mVE1ZP

Read the Stay of the Vacatur Order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit at: https://bit.ly/3l3KaTq

Visit the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign website for more information and resources on the Public Charge Rule at: https://bit.ly/3kENXH3