The Biden administration is moving forward with a plan to formally replace the Trump administration’s public charge rule, which broadened the definition of immigrants who could become what’s called a “public charge” and thus threatened to keep certain individuals from obtaining benefits for which they were eligible. “Public charge” rules refer to the legal requirement for officials to examine whether prospective U.S. residents may become a “public charge” if allowed to stay, and the Trump administration expanded the list of benefits that could factor into this determination. Under Trump, officials weighed whether those hoping to reside in the country had either already used or could possibly use services including Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps.
Tying using those services to whether immigrants can reside in the country can pose problems for those in need. Native-born U.S. citizens use these programs all the time without threatening their legal residences in the country, and the Trump administration’s attempt to factor usage or potential future usage of these programs against immigrants constituted yet another example of their anti-immigrant fervor. Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has now requested public comments on a new regulatory push to set new guidelines for examining whether someone applying for legal permanent residence in the U.S. may become a “public charge.” As Shelby Gonzales, who serves as vice president for immigration policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, put it: “The Biden Administration today took a step to ensure immigrants and their families can access health care, food assistance, and other needs.”
The public charge policy imposed by the Trump administration hasn’t been in force since March of this year, but the measure has yet to be formally replaced. In the meantime, officials have used the pre-Trump standards of operation for handling the question of whether a prospective immigrant may become a public charge. DHS says that they’ll be unveiling a new public charge rule that “will be fully consistent with law; that will reflect empirical evidence to the extent relevant and available; that will be clear, fair, and comprehensible for officers as well as for noncitizens and their families; that will lead to fair and consistent adjudications and thus avoid unequal treatment of the similarly situated; and that will not otherwise unduly impose barriers on noncitizens seeking admission to or adjustment of status in the United States.”