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Court Blocks Public Charge Rule During Pandemic

On July 29, a federal district court blocked the nationwide implementation, application, and enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) public charge rule for the duration of the declared public health emergency.

Under immigration law, individuals seeking to enter or who reside legally in the United States and apply for a green card (adjustment of status) must demonstrate they are not likely to become a public charge in the future. DHS’ final rule on inadmissibility on public charge grounds expanded the types of public benefits immigration officials consider in making a public charge determination to include nonemergency Medicaid (with limited exemptions), nutritional benefits, and housing benefits.

The controversial rule was supposed to take effect in October 2019, but a series of lawsuits blocked the final rule, delaying enforcement of the new public charge definition until February 2020. Since February, three states and the New York City have introduced new lawsuits blocking the administration from adhering to its new definition of public charge. Wednesday’s temporary injunction of the final rule marks a win for immigrant-rights activists and essential hospitals who feared the chilling effects would deter immigrants from receiving medical attention.

In addition to temporarily blocking DHS’ final rule during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the same district court issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on the Department of State’s (DOS’) public charge rule and the administration’s Health Insurance Proclamation. The DOS rule largely mirrors the DHS rule, with the intention of aligning the public charge definition across both departments. This injunction is indefinite and not tied to the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Abigail Painchaud is a policy associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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