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Supreme Court Dismisses States’ Effort to Defend Trump Public Charge Rule

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 15 dismissed an appeal by 13 Republican-led states seeking to defend the Trump administration 2019 public charge final rule.

In the 2019 rule, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expanded the list of public benefits immigration officials consider when determining whether an individual applying for lawful permanent resident status or admission to the United States is likely to become a public charge. The list of benefits included nonemergency Medicaid, nutritional, and housing benefits.

After the Biden administration expressed its intent to rescind the controversial public charge final rule and dropped the administration’s legal defense of the rule in federal courts, Arizona and 12 other states filed to intervene in defense of the 2019 rule in a case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit case was one of many pending cases challenging the legality of the public charge rule.

The Supreme Court’s dismissal of the appeal does not touch on the legality of the public charge rule but only on the ability of the 13 states to intervene in the Ninth Circuit case. A concurring opinion by Chief Justice Roberts and three other justices notes that the decision to dismiss should not be construed as a decision on the merits of the other pending public charge cases. The concurring opinion refers to the legal questions raised by both the 2019 public charge rule and the manner in which the Biden administration reversed it without going through notice-and-comment rulemaking.

Because the Biden administration rescinded the 2019 rule and now is enforcing the 1999 public charge definition, the dismissal of the appeal means that the 1999 definition will remain in effect. The 1999 definition excludes the different benefits added by the 2019 rule, only considering long-term institutionalization for Medicaid and cash benefits. A similar effort by Texas and other Republican-led states in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to defend and resurrect the 2019 rule is still pending.

Since the rescission of the 2019 final rule, the Biden administration issued a new proposed rule with a definition similar to the 1999 guidance. The administration has indicated it plans to finalize the new public charge definition later this summer. DHS also created a public charge resource page with questions and answers, encouraging noncitizens to seek necessary medical care without fear of immigration consequences.

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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