On March 9, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced that the government will no longer defend the new 2019 public charge rule proposed and implemented by the Trump administration. Secretary Mayorkas commented:
The 2019 public charge rule was not in keeping with our nation’s values. It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them. Consistent with the President’s vision, we will continue to implement reforms that improve our legal immigration system.
This announcement means that the regulations and guidance regarding public charge that existed prior to the 2019 rule will be restored.
From its proposed inception, the 2019 public charge was controversial and often criticized as a “wealth test” for those seeking immigration benefits. Under this rule, applicants for lawful permanent residency were required to disclose extensive personal financial information and provide voluminous documentation of assets and liabilities, a credit report, tax returns, bank statements, information regarding any public benefits ever received, and other financial information. While the public charge ground of inadmissibility existed prior to the implementation of this new rule, the 2019 rule significantly broadened the definition of “public charge,” thereby excluding many more people.
USCIS explains the practical implications of this change, noting that USCIS will no longer consider, for example, an applicant’s receipt of Medicaid, public housing, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) benefits as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination.
Although the government will no longer defend the 2019 rule in court and the various cases challenging the public charge rule have been dismissed, several states have nonetheless sought to intervene in these cases in order to have them reinstated and defend the validity of the 2019 rule. If the states were successful in this endeavor, USCIS could be required to implement the 2019 rule in the future.
As the battles over this controversial rule continue, we will keep you posted on any important developments.
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