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Shelley Starkey

Legal Challenges Halt Implementation of DHS Public Charge Rule

October 17, 2019 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Federal judges in New York, California, and Washington state have issued temporary injunctions against the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) public charge rule. The rule, which was set to take effect on October 15 but is now on hold, would greatly expand the definition of “public charge” when considering some immigrants’ applications to enter or become permanent residents of the United States. The National Council has long opposed the proposed updates to public charge determinations as they would result in significant harm to the health and welfare of migrant families.


While the injunctions remain in effect, there are no changes to the public charge determinations processes that have been in place since 1999. Had the new rule gone into effect as scheduled earlier this week, it would have made it more difficult for some immigrants to apply for visas or green cards if the U.S. determined they were likely to become a “public charge” by utilizing public assistance programs such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps). For a more thorough explanation of the provisions included in the now-blocked final rule, reference our previous coverage in Capitol Connector.

Public education on the issue is critical since confusion around the rule has already led to one in seven adults in immigrant families reporting avoiding public benefit programs last year, even before the rule was finalized. Since the public charge updates are on hold for the foreseeable future, immigrant families who would have been affected by the rule should continue using public assistance programs for which they are eligible without fear that doing so will impact their immigration status. For more clarity on the current state of play and how it affects individuals in specific circumstances, check out the “Know Your Rights” page on the Protecting Immigrant Families coalition website.


 These injunctions are a direct result of a groundswell of opposition to the final DHS rule. Over a quarter of a million individuals and organizations, including the National Council and our members, submitted comments to DHS when the rule was originally proposed in October, 2018. Lawsuits against DHS headed up by advocates in this space brought about the Judges’ rulings that have put the rule on hold. The National Council thanks each of you for your work to block this harmful rule from taking effect. Stay tuned to Capitol Connector for continued updates on the issue as these legal battles play out.