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Supreme Court Lifts Illinois Injunction on Public Charge Rule, Allowing Nationwide Implementation

The Supreme Court lifted an in Illinois state-wide injunction of the Trump administration’s final “public charge” rule (see Memo, 8/19/19) on February 21. The 5-4 vote allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to officially implement the rule nationwide as of February 24, even as lower courts proceed with litigation challenging the rule’s legality. The Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) campaign has resources available 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.

Most 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 so they can make informed decisions. Understanding the impacts helps fight the fear the Trump administration is using to take away healthcare, food, and housing from millions of people.

The Supreme Court voted on January 27 to overturn a national injunction of the public charge rule (see Memo, 2/3), but an injunction in Illinois stopped the rule from taking effect in that state. While the Supreme Court’s February 21 decision allows DHS to implement the rule nationally, states and organizations have filed a total of nine lawsuits challenging the rule’s legality that have yet to be decided. Congressional champions have also introduced bills, including the “Protect American Values Act” (S.2482) and the “No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act of 2019” (H.R.3222), prohibiting the use of federal funds to carry out the public charge rule. Advocates should urge their members of Congress to support these bills and similar proposals.

Resources from the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign are at: protectingimmigrantfamilies.org 

The “Protect American Values Act” is at: https://bit.ly/3a80RqQ

The “No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act of 2019” is at: https://bit.ly/3cao0e6

NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel’s statement on the Supreme Court’s public charge ruling is at: https://bit.ly/2Py3KJQ