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On January 27, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court in 5-4 vote allowed the Trump administration’s “public charge” immigration rule to go into effect while litigation over the policy continues in the lower courts. The Center joins many partner organizations in opposing the rule as it will irreparably harm older adults, people with disabilities and their families.

The public charge rule represents a sweeping revision of existing immigration policy that will force families to choose between health care, food, housing, and a future in the United States. It will allow officials to deny permanent legal residence (green cards) to immigrants who have received or are likely to need assistance from government programs, such as most forms of Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps). Older adults and people with disabilities will be particularly disadvantaged as factors such as age, health, income, and employability can also be used to evaluate and deny green card applications. The rule is a wealth test on lawful immigration that runs contrary to decades of settled law and the immigration priorities of the U.S. It will discourage family unification and lead to an increase in untreated health conditions, unstable housing, and poverty as families forego needed care and services in fear of deportation.

Even before going into effect, the public charge policy has caused individuals and families to do without benefits for which they are eligible out of anxiety and confusion about the effect it may have on their immigration status. The rules about who the policy affects are complicated; for example, certain immigrant groups are exempt, and the policy is still blocked from implementation in the state of Illinois even though it can now be applied in the rest of the U.S. For information about who the rule actually affects and how it may be applied going forward, check the website of Protecting Immigrant Families. PIF also recommends seeking advice from an immigration attorney before making decisions about benefits and services.

The Supreme Court’s order was not a decision on the merits and there are several cases challenging the policy that may still succeed. But is very disturbing that the Court is allowing the implementation of a rule that directly harms individuals and families, rather than preserving the status quo as litigation over the policy’s legality continues. The Center stands with immigrant families and their allies in strongly opposing this public charge rule.  It harms families, our country, and our long-standing national values.

January 30, 2020 – A. Bers

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