As the Biden administration continues to work on rolling back some key destructive policies from the Trump era, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case against a key Trump era immigration rule. In short, this rule further restricted access to green cards for immigrants who used or could be eligible for government benefit programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance. This so-called “public charge” rule from the Trump era was meant to restrict immigration to the United States for “anyone who is predicted to receive even a small amount of food, health or housing assistance at any point,” as the Legal Aid Society’s Susan Welber put it.
There was already a “public charge” rule in place before the Trump era, but the Trump administration significantly expanded the government benefit programs that could be factored into a determination of whether an immigrant would become a so-called “public charge.” So-called public charges are individuals who receive more than half of their income from government assistance, according to federal regulatory provisions. The Trump administration’s version of the public charge rule is still mostly in effect, but in the lawsuit that the Supreme Court agreed to hear, a broad coalition is challenging the federal rule change.
As summarized by CNN, “Immigrant advocates have since warned of the rule’s chilling effect on communities,” because “[in] some cases, immigrant families avoided public benefit programs, like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, in fear of risking future green card status, according to recently-released research from the Urban Institute.” Immigrant families could be putting themselves at serious risk because of fear of government backlash against any usage of support, although these support programs are available to non-immigrant Americans across the country without systematic issues. The Trump administration wanted to penalize immigrants for using the exact support available to individuals who were born in the country.
In an executive order that President Joe Biden signed earlier this month, he called for an effort “to clearly communicate current public charge policies and proposed changes, if any, to reduce fear and confusion among impacted communities.” He has also tackled other foundational Trump era immigration policies, like the construction of physical barriers at the southern border and the “Remain in Mexico” policy that forced asylum seekers to wait in potentially perilous conditions in Mexico while their cases were processed in the United States. Biden ended border barrier construction, and his administration is gradually phasing out the Remain in Mexico policy, allowing asylum seekers to access safe U.S. conditions.