Note: This statement was updated in March 2021 to reflect the current status of this rule as permanently blocked, after the Biden administration declined to continue the Trump administration’s appeals.
In 2019, the Trump administration revised immigration rules that forced families to choose between the things they need and the people they love. It made usage of public benefit programs that help families thrive–programs like Medicaid, SNAP food assistance, public housing, among others–a potential disqualifier for immigration. The result: a sicker, hungrier, poorer nation, and an enormous step backwards from achieving health equity. But immigrants and allies fought back, and we won.
The rule was published in August 2019 and expected to take effect in October 2019. Multiple lawsuits were filed, and several federal courts issued injunctions, temporarily stopping the rule from being implemented while the cases made their way through the courts. In January 2020, the Supreme Court lifted the remaining nationwide injunction, meaning the rule change could be implemented. It went into effect on February 24, 2020. However, the ruling allowed lower courts to re-review the rule change, and in July 2020, a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction, due to the clear evidence that the public charge rule was harming public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. This ruling was vacated and then reissued in November 2020 by another court. Finally, the Biden administration declined to continue the appeals process to reinstitute the rule, rendering it permanently blocked.
The current status of the rule is: permanently blocked, nationwide.
The “public charge” rule previously was used in a very narrow way to deny entry to the US, a green card, or other legal status; the Trump rule expanded how it’s applied. It allowed officials to deny immigrants’ applications if they used public programs to get medical care, food, shelter and other basic necessities, or were predicted to use them in the future. Not using the public benefits they are entitled risked their health and the health of their family; however, using them threatened their ability to pursue legal permanent residency.
Trump’s escalating attacks on immigrants were a rejection of our American values of family, community, and fairness. The rule change restricted legal immigration to only the wealthy few, shutting out the hard working families that enrich our communities and drive our economy. It discouraged millions of eligible individuals across the country from receiving medical attention, while exacerbating financial insecurity, hunger, and homelessness. Thousands of Coloradans were directly affected, and our state lost millions in economic activity. Many more were also been indirectly affected, due to the confusion and fear that this change stoked.
This isn’t the first time we faced abuses like this, both in our nation’s history and during the four years of the Trump administration. And just as we’ve done before, everyday Americans rose up, spoke out, and fought back. This was a fight for our values, our communities, and our nation’s soul. Our future depended on the success of our immigrant friends and neighbors. And we were victorious. We rejected the dangerous public charge rule change and are now working to embrace more policies that help immigrants and their families succeed, so we all can win.