ASA Applauds Federal Injunction on Public Charge Rule

Dear colleague,

The American Society on Aging applauds the decision last Friday in three Federal district courts to temporarily prevent changes to the manner in which the Department of Homeland Security interprets the “public charge rule” in determining eligibility of foreign nationals to enter into or remain resident in the United States. If unchallenged, a series of changes would have gone into effect on October 15, with significant consequences for older immigrants especially.

Federal district judges in the Northern District of California, the Eastern District of Washington, and the Southern District of New York all issued preliminary injunctions that have the effect of maintaining the status quo while litigation continues on the merits of the rule changes. ASA joined several other local, state and national organizations, led by Justice in Aging, in filing amicus briefs in these cases, plus three others still in progress, in opposition to the rule changes. ASA will continue to monitor developments in the various lawsuits and update our network accordingly.

In the ruling issued by the court for the Northern District of California, Judge Phyllis Hamilton noted that “plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their entirely independent arguments that defendants acted arbitrarily and capriciously during the legally-required process to implement the changes they propose.” Her ruling also noted that plaintiffs had argued convincingly concerning the immediate harmful impact of the proposed rule change: “In short, implementing the Rule after decades of a consistent policy prior to a determination of this action on the merits—which defendants argue will be accomplished in short order—does little to advance the defendants’ interests, and it would entirely upend the plaintiffs’ (and the non-party aliens’) interests.”

Read the full California ruling here, as well as other rulings from New York and Washington.

“Fighting this egregious action by the Trump Administration is a top advocacy priority for ASA,” said ASA Public Policy Co-Chair Paul Downey. “We are gratified that that three courts concurred with our arguments that these unjust and punitive rule changes directly harm older adults. ASA will remain vigilant because this is only a temporary ruling.”

Background on Public Charge and the Final Rule from Justice in Aging
In August 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a new final public charge rule that dramatically departed from previous guidance. Although the “public charge” test has been part of federal immigration law for decades and was historically designed to identify people who are “primarily dependent” on certain government benefits, namely Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and comparable state and local cash assistance programs, and government-funded institutional long-term care (including through Medicaid), the new rule changed the definition of public charge, expanded the public benefits the test can consider to include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), federal public housing and Section 8 assistance and most forms of Medicaid coverage. It also established a minimum income threshold of 125% of federal poverty level and assigned negative weight to being 62 or older, having limited English proficiency, and having a serious health condition or disability when using a “totality of circumstances” analysis that looks at factors like the applicant’s age, health, family status, income and resources, education and skills. The new rule was slated to go into effect October 15, 2019.

The stakes in a public charge determination are significant. The government can deny admission to the U.S. or refuse an application for lawful permanent residency (green card) to an applicant whom it determines is likely to become a public charge.

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