Public Charge Litigation
Update: March 9, 2021
The Department of Justice notified the Supreme Court today that it would no longer defend the Trump Administration’s discriminatory public charge rule and the Supreme Court agreed to dismiss the case. This means that the public charge rule is no longer in effect.
The public charge rule put in place a new test for people who are applying for visas or green cards. It looked at people’s health, including whether they have a disability, and whether they have used or might one day use public benefits, including Medicaid-funded home and community-based services on which many people with disabilities rely.
The Biden Administration issued an executive order last month to begin the process of reversing the rule. For now, the 1999 field guidance on public charge determinations is in effect.
Additional background information on the rule, resources, and media can be found here and more on the litigation opposing the rule can be found below.
Lawsuits Challenging the Final Public Charge Rule
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) public charge rule, which will go into effect on February 24, 2020, will be devastating for immigrants with disabilities, and means individuals could be denied admission or have their application for lawful permanent residency denied because they used (or even might use in the future) a wide range of government programs, including Medicaid, housing assistance, or food assistance.
The rule was scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019, but twenty one states, led by California, Washington, and New York, filed cases against the Trump Administration to block the new rule and were initially successful in delaying implementation of the rule. However, the Supreme Court, in a pair of 5-4 decisions (which you can read here and here), decided to allow the rule to go into effect while the lawsuits make their way through the courts, and the Administration then announced the rule would go into effect on February 24, 2020. For more on the rule’s implementation, you can read our alert here. In April, the Court decided not to modify or lift its stay in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but did state that lower courts could consider the issue.
On March 16, 2020, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that in response to the coronavirus pandemic it “will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19” in making public charge determinations, “even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits, as defined in the rule (e.g. federally funded Medicaid).” However, on July 29, 2020, a federal district court in New York found that announcement was insufficient to ensure the rule would not cause harm during the pandemic and issued a temporary injunction against the rule, preventing it from being implemented, applied, or enforced nationwide while the national public health emergency declared by the Trump Administration is ongoing.
The Center for Public Representation, American Civil Liberties Union, and sixteen other national disability advocacy groups represented by the global law firm Latham & Watkins filed amicus briefs in support of the litigation. The advocacy groups – representing tens of thousands of people with disabilities and their families across the country – claim that the new public charge rule will prevent people with disabilities from entering this country or becoming legal residents in violation of federal disability law.
Below are litigation highlights and links to filings in all of the lawsuits against the rule. To learn more about the rule, visit our main public charge page here and for more on how DHS’ public charge rule will affect people with disabilities, check out our fact sheet and explainer.
Public Charge Litigation Tracker
For more resources and information, please visit the Protecting Immigrant Families website.