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Court Invalidates Public Charge Rule; Enforcement Continues

On Nov. 2, a federal district court vacated the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’) public charge rule, finding it to be substantively and procedurally invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act.

The decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois marks the first time a court has ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on the merits of the legal challenges to the public charge rule. While the court vacated the rule and ordered that DHS stop implementation of the rule nationwide, DHS immediately appealed the case to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which allowed DHS to continue to enforce the rule while the appeal on the merits is pending.

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, implementation of the rule has been subject to additional challenges in court and has been put on hold intermittently. DHS provides the status of implementation of the rule on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at or 202.585.0127 with questions.


About the Author

Shahid Zaman is a senior policy analyst at America's Essential Hospitals.

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