March 18, 2021 – The Biden Administration has made a critical move to end the Trump-era public charge rule once and for all. This rule limited access to green cards for those deemed likely to use certain public benefits, leading to a devastating chilling effect on the health and well-being of immigrant communities. On March 9th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) withdrew all pending appeals of court decisions that had blocked the rule. Shortly after, the Supreme Court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals both dismissed the cases pending before them, effectively invalidating the public charge rule. As a result, the 2019 public charge rule is no longer in effect.
DHS has reverted to the long-standing 1999 field guidance on public charge, which was in place before the Trump-era policy took effect. Under this policy, it is safe for immigrants and their families to use health, nutrition, and housing programs they qualify for. This policy change will also improve the response to the pandemic and mitigate the health and economic disparities of COVID-19. Immigrants and their families need to know that getting COVID-19 testing, treatment, and the vaccine will not impact their immigration status or their ability to adjust their immigration status in the future.
This is a huge victory for immigrant communities. However, the damage done by harsh immigration policies implemented during the last federal administration are long lasting and restoring trust among foreign-born communities will take time and effort. In addition, the legal battle over the public charge rule is not completely over yet. 11 conservative states, led by Arizona, recently filed a motion to intervene in a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case over public charge challenges. This motion signals that the states hope to petition the Supreme Court to accept review of the case and have the case heard in full. As we work to promote policies that protect and expand access to health care for all, HCFA will work closely with communities and advocates to provide up-to-date information on how the public charge policy change will be implemented as more information becomes available.
Tiffany Alunan, Health Care For All Immigrant Health Intern