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Supreme Court Allows Public Charge Rule to Take Effect

At the request of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Supreme Court of the United States granted a stay of a New York district court decision that halted nationwide enforcement of the public charge final rule. Therefore, DHS now can enforce the public charge rule everywhere but Illinois.

The stay on the injunction will remain in place until the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit makes a final decision on the merits of the government’s appeal.

Under immigration law, individuals who seek to enter or 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 rule in question, DHS added nonemergency Medicaid (with limited exemptions for children and pregnant women), nutritional benefits, and housing benefits to the types of support immigration officials consider when making public charge determinations. Under the rule, DHS will evaluate whether an applicant for a green card is likely to receive any of these benefits for more than 12 months in aggregate within any 36-month period.

In 2019, five federal courts halted enforcement of DHS’ public charge rule, days before the Oct. 15 effective date. These decisions granting preliminary injunctions varied in scope, with decisions out of New York, Washington, and Maryland preventing nationwide enforcement of the public charge rule. Other decisions were more limited in scope, with an Illinois district court issuing an injunction applying only to Illinois.

Since those decisions, DHS appealed the cases to the respective courts of appeals. While other courts of appeals granted stays of the nationwide injunctions, the Court Appeals for the Second Circuit (with jurisdiction over New York) allowed the New York district court’s nationwide injunction to remain in place until it issues a final decision on the merits. DHS in turn requested that the Supreme Court grant a stay of the New York district court decision.

In a release, America’s Essential Hospitals warned the decision this week will cause people legally in this country to forgo medical treatment for fear of putting their immigration status at risk, ultimately increasing costs for taxpayers and the entire health care system. The association called on the administration to reverse course on this terrible policy and protect access to vital health care.

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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