Attorney General Becerra Leads Coalition Urging Trump Administration to Withdraw Department of State’s Public Charge Rule

Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

In addition to being unlawful, this rule will harm working immigrant families and in turn harm California

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a coalition of six attorneys general in filing a comment letter opposing the Trump Administration’s interim final rule, which allows State Department consular officers to deny visa applications based on having a low income or using publicly-funded programs, among other factors. In today’s comment letter, the attorneys general emphasize that the rule’s drastic departure from longstanding limits in the public charge doctrine is contrary to law and will harm important state interests. The rule will curtail legal immigration to California and discourage eligible immigrants from accessing important health, nutrition, and housing programs.

“It’s a new week and the Trump Administration is at it again – pushing harmful rhetoric against immigrants and communities of color,” said Attorney General Becerra. “This reckless interim rule preys on vulnerable communities by weaponizing publicly-funded programs built to help our California families flourish. We will continue to advocate for our communities and families and fight this thoughtless rule every step of the way.”

The coalition of attorneys general strongly urge the U.S. State Department to withdraw the interim final rule, which is based on a Department of Homeland Security rule that has been enjoined by five federal court judges. These rules are based on discrimination rather than reason and as such, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The State Department rule negatively impacts individuals applying for a visa from abroad and the family members or employers in the U.S. that petition for them to come here. It also affects individuals currently residing in the United States without authorization who become eligible for a visa.

The interim final rule would use public benefits, lower incomes, and a host of other factors not previously relied upon to deny visas. That would negatively harm California because it will:

  • Discourage hardworking immigrants from using public benefits to prosper and provide for their families.
  • Negatively affect the state’s administration of benefits by undermining California’s public health, nutrition, and housing initiatives.
    • Immigrants declining to enroll or un-enrolling from public benefits causes a number of public health harms—to themselves, their families, their communities, and the nation. Poor health outcomes, lack of nutrition, and housing instability are all potential consequences of this rule.
  • Harm California’s economy by deterring employment-based visa applicants from accepting work in California, to the detriment of California’s agriculture and technology sectors.
  • Prevent family reunification.
    • The State Department’s 2018 expansion of public charge led to increased denials of family-based visa applicants - from 897 denials in 2015 to over 13,000 denials in 2018.

Attorney General Becerra has challenged the expansion of the public charge rule at every possible opportunity. On October 10, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security issued a proposed rule that would significantly change the grounds for excluding immigrants under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Attorney General Becerra challenged and successfully blocked the implementation of the rule. Further, in March 2019, Attorney General Becerra led a coalition of attorneys general supporting the City of Baltimore’s challenge to the Trump Administration’s abrupt changes to the longstanding Foreign Affairs Manual guidance. Attorney General Becerra will continue to defend immigrants’ rights to use public benefits and denounce public charge doctrines that undermine California’s wellbeing.

Joining Attorney General Becerra in filing the comment letter are the attorneys general of New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

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