Federal Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction on the new DHS Public Charge Rules

A federal judge in New York on Friday temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule linking immigrants’ legal status to their use of public benefits.

Judge George Daniels of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a nationwide Preliminary Injunction which temporarily stops the implementation of the recently filed “public charge” rules promulgated by the US Department of Homeland Security. The new framework would have become effective on Tuesday Oct. 15.

Remember, this is just a Preliminary Injunction, it’s not a final ruling on the merits of the case (PI’s are just that, preliminary).  Because the application of the law cannot be a state by state thing, it is a nationwide PI. 

The bottom line is that the new Rules would (if implemented) change the criteria the federal government uses to make decisions about legal permanent resident applications. The final rules will block legal immigrants from extending their temporary visas or gaining permanent residency if the government decides the applicant is likely to rely on public benefits in the future.

Under the new rule, any immigrant who receives at least one designated public benefit— including Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), or public housing vouchers for more than 12 months within any three-year period will be considered a “public charge” and will be more likely to be denied a green card (legal permanent resident) by immigration officials.

The Feds already consider whether applicants for legal permanent residency receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) when they evaluate applications for permanent resident status.

Importantly, the final Rule won’t consider whether benefits were used by an applicant’s children. Likewise, if lawfully present kids receive benefits (e.g. Medicaid) that fact won’t be considered against them if the child later applies for legal permanent residency (a “green card”).

Public health note:  We know from both national reports and from assistors and community organizations working in Arizona, that families are afraid and withdrawing from or reluctant to participate in benefits for which they or their children are legally eligible. Nationally, nearly one in four children have an immigrant parent, and almost 90% of them are US citizens.  Missing out on safety net programs for which folks are entitled can result in bad health outcomes because of social determinants that won't be addressed and missed doctor's appointments which could result in missed developmental screenings and interventions.