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Immigration Law

CA9 (2-1) on Public Charge: San Francisco v. USCIS

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Dec. 2, 2020

"California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today secured an order from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming a prior preliminary injunction in a multistate lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s public charge rule. The rule targets working immigrants and their families by turning the use of critical health, nutrition, and housing programs that supplement their modest incomes into barriers to lawful admission to the United States. The appellate court’s order applies to the multistate coalition and states involved in related Ninth Circuit cases. 

“We applaud today’s decision blocking the Trump Administration from enforcing its immoral public charge rule while we make our case in court,” said Attorney General Becerra. “As we continue to face an unprecedented economic and public health crisis, forcing hardworking families to choose between basic necessities and maintaining their immigration status is inhumane. Attacking the healthcare of even one community is an attack on us all. Today’s victory is critical, but the fight is not over. We won’t let the Trump Administration’s assault on our immigrant communities go unchecked.”

Longstanding guidance by the federal government defined a public charge as a person who is primarily dependent on either public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutional long-term care at the government’s expense. The Trump Administration has sought to expand this definition by declaring that the use of additional government programs constitutes grounds for a public charge determination, including healthcare through Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program), nutrition and food support through CalFresh (California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and housing for families through Section 8 housing assistance. The public charge rule has an outsized impact on California, where one in four people are immigrants and one in two children have an immigrant parent. The rule discourages eligible immigrant and mixed immigration-status families, who are not otherwise subject to the rule, from applying for benefits that they need and are entitled to. It also makes it harder for low- and moderate-income immigrants to be admitted into the United States or obtain green cards.  

Attorney General Becerra has fought against the Trump Administration’s public charge rule every step of the way. In 2018, Attorney General Becerra urged the Trump Administration to withdraw its initial public charge proposal. In 2019, Attorney General Becerra detailed how the final rule would negatively impact California’s public health, social services, housing, educational programs, and economy. Shortly afterward, he filed a lawsuit challenging the chilling effects of the rule. As COVID-19 began to sweep through the country, Attorney General Becerra called on the Trump Administration to halt implementation of the public charge rule to help combat the spread of the ongoing pandemic. 

Attorney General Becerra is joined in the case by the attorneys general of the Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the decision is available here."