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Legal battles over the 'social burden' rule continue: what immigrants need to know when seeking benefits

Supreme Court Goes Into Fight For Immigrants Due To Public Charge, Informs THEHILL.

Photo: Shutterstock

On October 29, the Supreme Court agreed to rule whether 14 states have the right to challenge President Biden's decision to overturn President Trump's ruling banning immigration for anyone on government aid lists, known as the Public Charge rule.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California ruled that the states had no legal capacity, but the decision was appealed and the High Court decided to weigh it. They will probably hear oral arguments later this month.

When the Biden administration announced on March 9, 2021 that it would no longer enforce the Trump administration's Public Charge rules, it said the rules were unfair to individuals who “have access to health benefits and other government services available to them” and “ are not in line with the values ​​of our nation ”.


The Public Charge regulation states that “any foreigner who… at the time of applying for a visa or… at the time of applying for admission or change of status is likely to become Public Charge at any time. It is unacceptable".

This provision further states that in determining whether a foreigner is unacceptable because he may become a social burden, his (I) age should be taken into account; (Ii) health; (Iii) marital status; (Iv) assets, resources and financial condition; (V) education and skills; and any affidavit of support - a contract that someone, usually a relative, signs, agreeing to support a prospective immigrant should he be unable to support himself.


Under previous DHS rules, which have been in effect since 1999, only cash government benefits a foreigner has or will receive were considered when determining the likelihood of becoming a Public Charge.

Non-cash benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps were not counted; Medicaid; or housing subsidies. The emphasis was on whether he would be “primarily dependent on the government for existence”.

On August 4, 2019, the Trump administration published rules that added consideration of non-monetary benefits to “better ensure that foreigners subject to Public Charge rules are self-sufficient, that is, they do not depend on government resources to meet their needs and rely on their own capabilities. as well as the resources of family members, sponsors and private organizations. "

The regulations state that the term “Public Charge” means a person who receives one or more designated government benefits for more than 12 months cumulatively in any 36 month period.

The decision must be based on the totality of the circumstances of the applicant's case.

Public Charge history

Public Charge provisions date back to the American colonial period, when several colonies adopted protective measures to prohibit the immigration of individuals who could drain public resources.

In the nineteenth century, east coast states such as New York and Massachusetts passed state laws prohibiting the immigration of a foreigner who was considered “a person unable to take care of himself without being involved in public service.”

The Immigration Act of 1882 made the Public Charge provision federal law, using the same language used in state statutes.

Under the Immigration Act 1891, a federal immigration office was created to screen foreigners wishing to enter the United States.

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This made “all idiots, crazy people, people who could become Public Charge” unacceptable.

The 1903 Immigration Act also made “beggars” unacceptable.

The 1907 Immigration Act added language to exclude potential immigrants who are “mentally or physically disabled people whose condition could affect their ability to ... make a living.”

Definition of Public Charge

Since there is no specific definition of Public Charge in the law, judicial and administrative decisions have played an important role in defining this provision.

But these decisions left it primarily to the discretion of law enforcement agencies and their staff. Therefore, it seems likely that the courts will view the Trump administration's rulings as a legitimate and admissible interpretation of this provision.

On the other hand, the courts are not expected to find that the new president lacks the power to set his own guidelines.

The main change is to add accounting for non-monetary benefits - and this is consistent with the history and development of the Public Charge clause, which reflects a reluctance to pay for services that immigrants need if they cannot support themselves.

And American taxpayers have to pay for the benefits that support these immigrants, whether they are cash or non-cash.

This is why affidavits of support will count towards determining Public Charge.

This shifts the burden of supporting the immigrant, who becomes Public Charge, from American taxpayers to the immigrant's family or to someone else who is willing to take on this responsibility.

The reluctance to cover such costs is also reflected in a lawsuit filed by Texas and 13 other states to prevent Biden from overturning the rules.

In it, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said, “Without the Public Charge rule, our Medicaid and other vital services costs will skyrocket and be too unreliable, costing taxpayers millions and diminishing the quality of the services we can provide.”

The Biden administration's failure to enforce Trump's rules gives Biden the impression that he is more concerned with the needs of immigrants than with the financial implications for taxpayers.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants, and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

Congress could revise this provision to provide more guidance on how it should be implemented, rather than leaving it to those in the White House - or unelected judges in our federal courts.

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In the U.S. immigrants to the USA Public charge new rules of the Biden administration
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