On July 29, 2020, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued nationwide temporary injunctions preventing the Trump Administration from implementing the Inadmissibly on Public Charge Grounds regulations. The orders bar Department of Homeland Security’s public charge regulation and the companion regulation issued by the State Department for any period during the declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19. The ruling comes after immigrant rights attorneys successfully argued that the COVID-19 pandemic has made the DHS public charge rule lethal to immigrant communities by chilling the use of health care and other benefits.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued guidance that the final rule did not restrict access to testing, screening, or treatment of communicable diseases, including COVID-19. Additionally, the rule did not restrict access to vaccines for children or adults to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases. USCIS clarified that they would neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination.
The Urban Institute confirmed in a study that the widespread chilling effect of this final rule caused eligible immigrant families from seeking access to medical care. This phenomenon has become even more alarming during the COVID-19 pandemic. Families may avoid medical care and public supports for fear of being deemed a public charge, despite formal clarification from USCIS.
The same federal court that issued the July 29th nationwide injunctions also block the regulation in October 2019, until the United States Supreme Court lifted that injunction, allowing the Trump administration to implement the policy in February. In April, litigants challenging the policy, including the New York Attorney General, the attorneys general of other states, and New York City, asked the Supreme Court to reconsider that decision in light of the pandemic. The Supreme Court declined but gave litigants leave to file again with the trial court. These new rulings follow oral arguments on that motion. The Trump administration has not yet indicated whether it will appeal.
Wildfire will continue to monitor and provide updates on public charge. If you have specific questions or concerns, please consult an immigration attorney. Click here to view a directory of Arizona immigration resources.