Federal District Courts Block Department of Homeland Security’s Public Charge Rule

On October 11, federal judges in New York, California, and Washington blocked the implementation of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) final “public charge” rule that was set to go into effect on October 15. The nationwide injunctions prevent the Trump administration from acting on the rule while courts consider the legality of the new regulations. The cases in New York, California, and Washington are three of several lawsuits across the country that aim to stop the rule’s implementation.

“Public charge” is a term used by immigration officials to identify an individual who is considered primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. The new DHS regulation would expand the government’s previous interpretation of a public charge to include Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, Public Housing programs, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), disproportionally impacting low-income applicants. DHS plans to “weigh heavily” the use of these benefits when considering immigration status and estimate the rule will apply to 400,000 applicants.

Last year, Enterprise submitted comments to DHS opposing these proposed amendments, which could lead to higher application denial rates for noncitizens seeking admission to the U.S., noncitizens applying for lawful permanent resident status, and those seeking an extension of or changes to their non-immigrant status. Our comment letter notes that the unintended consequences of this rule change will be deeply destabilizing to these low-income, immigrant communities, prompting some to forgo their legal right to benefits out of fear of hindering the entry and change of status applications of their family members.

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