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Trump-Era Public Charge Lawsuit Comes to a Close

Supreme Court Shuts Down Attempts to Revive Cruel Public Charge Rule but the Legal Fight Continues (January 10, 2023)

The Supreme Court yesterday declined to review whether Texas and other states can reopen litigation challenging the Trump administration’s 2019 public charge rule. The 2019 rule punished people seeking permanent resident status in the United States if they use—or are deemed likely to use in the future—public supports to meet their family’s basic health, housing and nutrition needs. 

The Trump administration’s 2019 public charge rule effectively denied millions of immigrant families health care, housing and economic support. An estimated 2.1 million essential workers and household members went without Medicaid and 1.3 million did not receive help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the 2019 rule.

 

The lawsuit, Cook County, Illinois et al. v. Mayorkas et al., filed in the Northern District of Illinois in 2019, argued that the Trump administration’s 2019 public charge rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act and discriminated against immigrants of color in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Legal Council for Health Justice, National Housing Law Project and Sidley Austin LLP brought the case on behalf of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and Goldberg Kohn brought the case on behalf of Cook County.

 

After a nearly two-year legal battle, the lower court invalidated the 2019 public charge rule. After the Biden administration dropped its defense of the Trump administration’s 2019 public charge rule, the rule was finally invalidated nationwide and the case was dismissed.

 

On March 11, 2021, Texas and other states sought to intervene in the dismissed litigation by seeking to reopen the case and resurrect the Trump administration’s 2019 public charge rule. The District Court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals both denied Texas and the other states’ efforts. The Supreme Court’s action today ends Texas and other states’ efforts to intervene in the case.

 

Texas has continued its efforts to bring back the harmful Trump administration’s 2019 public charge policy. On January 5, 2023, Texas filed a new lawsuit challenging the invalidation of the Trump administration’s 2019 public charge rule and the Biden’s administration’s recently finalized 2022 public charge rule in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The Biden administration’s 2022 rule largely restores and improves upon the public charge policy in place for 20 years prior to the Trump administration and adds critical protections to ensure immigrant families are not penalized for accessing government services.

 

Immigrants and advocates will continue to defend and protect immigrants’ rights to access essential services for themselves and their families.

 

“In a victory for immigrant communities, the Supreme Court has rejected the misguided and drawn-out effort by Texas and other states to revive the mean-spirited Trump public charge rule,” said Lawrence Benito, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), one of the plaintiffs in the Illinois lawsuit challenging the 2019 rule. “Health care is a human right for all, but the Trump-era rule did nothing but make immigrants fearful of accessing necessary health programs. Our families and communities should not need to choose between getting the help they need or preserving their opportunity to get or keep their legal status.”

 

“Although it is welcome news that this legal battle against the 2019 Trump public charge rule is over, Texas’ new efforts to bring back a harmful policy against low-income immigrants of color and end new protections for immigrants under the 2022 Biden public charge rule is unconscionable,” said Militza Pagán, staff attorney at Shriver Center on Poverty Law.

 

“The 2019 public charge rule caused immigrants to fear that their stay and future in this country would be jeopardized if they secured their medical needs and their next meal,” said Thomas Yates, executive director, Legal Council for Health Justice. “The 2022 final public charge regulation simply ensures that people eligible to receive life-saving services can do so without fear.”

 

“Critical access to food, shelter and medical care should never be weaponized against immigrants or any community,” said Kate Walz, associate director of litigation at the National Housing Law Project.

 

“We’re delighted that our client’s victory in this litigation is now final—and that the communities and individuals that ICIRR serves need no longer face the fear caused by the illegal public charge rule,” said Tacy Flint, partner at Sidley Austin LLP.

 
Read the full news release from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Legal Council for Health Justice and National Housing Law Project.