Supreme Court Allows Public Charge Rule to Take Effect

The Supreme Court on January 27 overturned by a 5-4 vote a nation-wide injunction of the Trump administration’s final “public charge” rule. This decision allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement the harmful new rule across the country, except in Illinois, where there is a state-wide injunction. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that the agency will apply the final rule to any applications and petitions submitted on or after February 24. New guidance and forms will be published on its website the week of February 3. 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.

Noncitizens seeking admission to the U.S. or applying for lawful permanent resident status (green card) have long been subject to a review to determine whether they are, or might become, a “public charge,” defined as someone who might become “primarily dependent on the government.” DHS’s new rule expands the list of “public benefits” that could lead an immigrant to be considered a potential public charge to include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and federal housing assistance, such as public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance. Immigration officials will also now consider other factors, such as health, age, income, and English language skills when making public charge determinations (see Memo, 8/19/19).

The majority of immigrants who are subject to the public charge test are not eligible for the programs included in the final rule, and eligible family member’s use of these benefits does not count against an immigrant’s application for admission or lawful permanent resident status. The PIF campaign has resources to ensure immigrants and their families understand how they might be impacted by the rule and their rights so they can make informed decisions. Understanding the impacts and immigrants’ rights helps lessen the fear the Trump administration is trying to engender to take away healthcare, food, and housing from millions of people.

While the Supreme Court’s decision allows DHS to implement the rule, the courts have not made a final decision about the rule’s legality. States and organizations have filed a total of 9 lawsuits that have yet to be decided. In addition, congressional champions have proposed bills, such as the “No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act of 2019” (H.R. 3222), which would prevent federal funds from being used to carry out the public charge rule. Advocates should urge their members of Congress to support H.R. 3222 and similar proposals.

NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel’s statement on the Supreme Court's ruling is at:

Updates and resources from the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign are at: