Trump Administration Change to the Definition of “Public Charge” Reversed by the Biden Administration
For decades, the “public charge rule” has been a limitation on immigration. Vagrants must not obtain US immigration benefits. Those who are likely to obtain certain types of government welfare are unable to obtain a visa or green card.
Redefining Public Charge
The Trump Administration changed the definition of “public charge,” expanding it and making it more difficult for people who are relatively poor to obtain immigration benefits. The list of prohibited benefits expanded. There was also an increased focus on the education and experience of the foreign applicant. And that applicant’s financial wherewithal was examined to help ensure there was little likelihood that the foreigner would obtain US welfare. Consequently, the proof required of foreigners was onerous as demonstrated by immigration form I-944. That form called for many pages information and documents, sometimes going back decades.
It seemed as if the purpose of the change was mainly to slow immigration by adding burdens to even normal cases where public charge did not seem to be much of an issue. Also, the effect was to put foreigners who are not wealthy in jeopardy, even when there was no history of obtaining government welfare in any country or a inclination to accept it. This was so even when a US citizen spouse signed an affidavit promising to repay the US government for any infraction.
Law Suits Now Dismissed
Law suits flew with mixed results. Suits were ongoing even through changing administrations from Trump to Biden. As of now, the lawsuits have mainly stopped. DOS rule remains enjoined in court, the DOJ rule was never published, and the DHS rule is vacated.
Consistent with President Biden Executive Order 14012 directing the review of the Public Charge Rule, DOJ filed a joint motion to dismiss the petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court. DOJ also entered joint motions to dismiss appeals in various circuit courts, including the case in the Seventh Circuit of Appeals which stayed a nationwide injunction of the DHS Final Public Charge Rule. On March 9, 2021, the Seventh Circuit lifted its stay. That step allowed the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois’s order vacating the Public Charge Final Rule nationwide to go into effect.
States Rights Continue
Several states seek to intervene to reinstate the Public Charge Final Rule even though DOJ dismissed various challenges. These states want to defend the validity of the Public Charge Final Rule. If successful, USCIS may implement the Final Rule once again. Updates concerning this Final Rule seem never-ending.
Things Back to Normal in the Meantime
In the meantime, USCIS removed Form I-944 from its website. DOJ and USCIS provided guidance that it will no longer apply the 2019 Public Charge Final Rule. Instead, the public charge inadmissibility statute consistent with the old rules, pre-Trump, applies.