Public Charge


Update November 1, 2019:

On Wednesday, October 30, the Department of Justice filed notices of appeal in eight of the nine cases challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s public charge rule (a decision in the Baltimore case has been deferred in light of the injunctions in other cases). Injunctions were issued in each of those cases last month halting implementation of the rule.

For the latest on the litigation, click here.

Update:  Federal courts in New York, Washington state, and California issued preliminary injunctions to stop the public charge rule on October 11.  Federal courts in Illinois and Maryland issued injunctions on October 14.

The Center for Public Representation celebrates the nationwide preliminary injunctions issued today by federal courts in New York (which can be read here and here) and Washington state, preventing the Administration from implementing its cruel and discriminatory public charge rule and finding the rule could discriminate against people with disabilities.  These decisions are a clear victory for disabled immigrants and their families. 

In addition, a federal court in California issued a limited preliminary injunction, preventing the rule from going into effect in the plaintiff states.  On the eve of the rule going into effect, a federal court in Maryland issued a nationwide injunction and Illinois also issued a limited preliminary injunction.

Read our full statement here, and for the latest updates on all of the ongoing litigation, please visit us here.

Update September 10, 2019:

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 an amicus brief in support of litigation to stop the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing its new “public  charge” rule.  Twenty-one states, led by California, Washington, and New York, have filed cases against the Trump Administration to block the new rule.  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.  Read our full press release here and keep updated on the lawsuits here

“Public Charge”

On August 12, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it had finalized the “public charge” rule and published it in the federal register on August 14.  The final public charge rule, like the proposed rule, will be devastating to — and explcitly discriminates against — people with disabilities and their families who are seeking to enter the U.S. or applying for a green card.   CPR issued this statement condemning the new public charge rule.

The new public charge rule is unfair and harmful to people with disabilities and their families who are seeking to enter the U.S. or applying for a green card. The rule expressly discriminates against people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. This rule also means that an individual 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. Because Medicaid provides critical services that help people with disabilities live in the community and that are not generally available through private insurance, this rule will especially harm people with disabilities and their families. It not only could prevent them from entering the US or becoming permanent residents, but will discourage eligible families from using critical public services for fear of harming their immigration status. 

Here is a summary of the final public charge rule and a document explaining who the rule does and does not impact.  Learn more about the final rule at the Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition website, and keep checking back here for updates.   The public charge rule was scheduled to become effective on October 15, 2019, but litigation has prevented the rule from going into effect, at least for now.   

Lawsuits Challenging the Final Public Charge Rule

Since the final public charge rule was announced, litigation to stop the rule has been filed across the country, including by:

Washington State, together with VA, CO, DE, IL, MD, MA, MI, MN, NV, NJ, and RI  (E.D. of Washington, filed 8/14/19) [refers to disability claims]

California, together with the ME, OR, PA and DC (N.D. of California, filed 8/16/19) [includes disability claims]  

  • Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction (filed 8/26/19)
  • Amicus brief  filed by CPR, ACLU and other disability organizations (filed 9/11/19)
  • Decision granting preliminary injunction in plaintiff states but finding no specific disability discrimination (10/11/19)

New York, together with VT and CT (S.D. of New York, filed 8/20/19) [includes disability claims]

Cook County, Illinois, together with Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (N.D. of IL, filed 9/23/19) [includes disability claims]

  • Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction (filed 9/25/19)
  • Amicus Brief filed by CPR, ACLU and other disability organizations (filed 10/2/19)
  • Decision granting preliminary injunction in Illinois and not directly addressing the disability discrimination claims (10/14/19)
  • Notice of denial of stay of injunction pending appeal (11/14/19)

Counties of San Franscisco and Santa Clara, CA (N.D. of California, filed 8/13/19) 

La Clinica De La Raza, together with California Primary Care Association, Maternal and Child Health Access, Farmworker Justice, Council on American Islamic Relations-California, African Communities Together, Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, CEntral American Resource Center and Korean Resource Center (N.D. of California, filed 8/16/19)

Make the Road New York, together with Make the Road New York (“MRNY”), African Services Committee, Asian American Federation, Catholic Charities Community Services, and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (S.D. of New York, filed 8/27/19) [includes disability claims] 

CASA de Maryland and individual plaintiffs (D. of Maryland, filed on 9/16/19)

Cities of Baltimore and Gaithersburg, MD, together with State Senator Jeff Waldstreicher, Friends of Immigrants, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Tzedek DC (D. of Maryland, filed on 9/27/19)

  • A ruling in this case has been deferred due to the injunctions issued in other public charge cases.

Public Charge Litigation Tracker

On October 3, immigrant rights groups, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, CLASP, and others, submitted a letter to DHS, USCIS, and OMB asking to delay the effective date because of USCIS’ failure to “publish the revised and new forms that affected applicants and petitioners must submit under the rule, or perform any public engagement or issue guidance on implementation of the rule.”

For updated resources and information, please visit Protecting Immigrant Families website.

Resources and Media on the Final Public Charge Rule


Changes to “Public Charge” Inadmissibility Rule: Implications for Health and Health Coverage, Kaiser Family Foundation (Aug. 2019)

Public Charge Analysis and FAQs, Protecting Immigrant Families (Aug. 2019)

Public Charge:  A Threat to Immigrant Families, Protecting Immigrant Families (Aug. 2019)

Let’s Talk About Public Charge , Protecting Immigrant Families (Aug. 2019)

Public Charge:  Getting the Help You Need, Protecting Immigrant Families (Aug. 2019)

Public Charge Webinar, Protecting Immigrant Families (Aug. 2019)

Final “Public Charge” Rule Discriminates against Lawfully Present Immigrants and Visa Applicants, Harming Health Families USA (Aug. 2019)

Immigrant Health Under Attack: Trump’s Public Charge Rule Webinar, Families USA (Aug. 2019)


Disability rights groups join challenge to ‘public charge’ rule (The Hill, 9/11/19)

Trump’s New Green Card Policy Disproportionally Affects Immigrants With Disabilities (Forbes, 8/13/19)

Pediatricians speak out: A ‘public charge rule’ is dangerous for children (The Hill, 9/1/19)

Trump administration’s ‘public charge’ rule has chilling effect on benefits for immigrants’ children (LA Times, 9/3/19)

Trump Is Now Going to Make Life Hell for Immigrants With Disabilities (Vice, 8/16/19)

Trump officials move to deny greencards, path to citizenship for poor immigrants (Washington Post, 8/12/19)

Trump Policy  Favors Wealthier Immigrants for Green Cards (New York Times, 8/12/19)

Trump to deny green cards to immigrants receiving public benefits (Politico, 8/12/19)

Comments and Information on the Proposed Public Charge Rule

Comments Submitted on the Proposed Public Charge Rule

CPR Comments

NHeLP Comments

National Disability Rights Network Comments

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Comments

ACLU Comments

Access Living Comments on Proposed Changes to the Public Charge Rule

Justice In Aging Comments

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) Comments

Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) Comments

National Council on Aging Comments

Kaiser Permanente Comments

Community Catalyst Comments

Center for American Progress Comments

Media and Resources on the Proposed Public Charge Rule

How the Proposed Public Charge Rule Will Hurt People with Disabilities, CPR, The Arc, Autistic Self Advocacy Network (Nov. 2018)

Explainer: Impact of the Public Charge Rule Change on People with Disabilities, The Arc, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, CPR (Nov. 2018)

Proposed Changes to “Public Charge” Policies for Immigrants: Implications for Health Coverage, Kaiser Family Foundation

America’s Leading Health Plans Oppose Public Charge, Protecting Immigrant Families

Trump’s Public Charge: Poor, Disabled Immigrants Need Not Apply, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)

Proposed Changes to Public Charge: Quick Analysis, Fact Sheet from Protecting Immigrant Families

Resources List from Protecting Immigrant Families

The Health Impact of the Proposed Public Charge Rules, Health Affairs (9/29/18)

DHS’ Proposed Rule: What May Change With Public Charge?, NHeLP (9/27/18)

Trump Targets Health of Immigrant Families In Seeking Change of Longstanding Immigration Law, NHeLP (9/24/18)

Public Charge: A Threat to the Health & Well-being of Older Adults in Immigrant Families Justice in Aging Fact Sheet (9/14/18)

Estimated Impacts of the Proposed Public Charge Rule on Immigrants and Medicaid, Kaiser Family Foundation (10/11/18)

A New Threat to Immigrants’ Health – The Public Charge Rule, New England Journal of Medicine (8/1/18)

Statements Opposing the Proposed Public Charge Rule

Center for Public Representation

National Council on Independent Living

The Arc

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Center for American Progress

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD)

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA)

American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

U.S. Conference of Mayors

Coalition on Human Needs


The “public charge” test is not new in federal immigration law. It is designed to identify people who may depend on government benefits as their main source of support. If the government determines someone is likely to become a “public charge,” the government can deny admission to the U.S. or refuse an application for lawful permanent residency.  However, under current law only a very narrow set of programs are considered in determining a “public charge” – cash assistance (such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)) and government funded institutional care (like Medicaid-funded nursing homes). 

The rule was published in the federal register and was officially open for public comment (a required step toward making this a binding federal regulation) through December 10, 2018.  Over 260,000 comments were submitted opposing the rule.

The final public charge rule will be devastating to people with disabilities.  It  greatly expands the benefits that count in the “public charge” test.  It would include many programs that help people meet basic needs, such as Medicaid, food assistance, housing assistance and comparable state and local programs.  Many people with disabilities and their families rely on these programs, especially Medicaid.  The rule also greatly expands how health — including disability — is considered.  Having a disability or chronic health condition is counted as a negative factor.  If a person does not have private insurance that would cover all the medical costs of a disability or chronic condition, that counts as a “heavily weighted” negative factor.  Because many important community services are only available through Medicaid and not covered by private insurance, this factor will also count against most people with disabilities.  

Data Resources on the Impact of the Public Charge Rule
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