Attorney General Becerra Leads Multistate Amicus Brief Challenging Trump Administration’s Public Charge Foreign Affairs Manual Guidance

Friday, March 22, 2019
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined the District of Columbia in leading a multistate amicus brief in support of plaintiffs in Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v Trump et al. The case challenges the Trump Administration’s abrupt changes to the longstanding Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) guidance. The guidance now permits consular officials to consider the receipt of a wide range of public benefits when considering legal status or whether a person can enter the country. The Attorneys General argue that they have a compelling interest in protecting the health, well-being, and economic security of their residents. This includes public benefits designed to help families make ends meet and ensure strong, healthy families across the nation.

“This guidance represents yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to sow fear and confusion in the immigrant community,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The Trump Administration continues to play politics at the expense of vulnerable families and their children. This dangerous policy would force parents to forgo basic necessities like food, housing, and healthcare out of fear. We will not stand for this assault on families and communities across our nation.”

On January 3, 2018, the U.S. Department of State revised sections of its FAM guidance to permit consular officials to consider the receipt of a wide range of public benefits. This includes considering an applicant’s entire household when adjudicating admission and decreases the weight traditionally given to a financial sponsor’s affidavit of support to determine whether someone is a “public charge”. The term public charge describes people who depend on government-funded cash assistance or long-term care. Individuals who are likely to become a public charge may be denied admission to the U.S. or lawful permanent status.  

On November 28, 2018, the City of Baltimore filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, challenging the Trump Administration’s changes to the public charge FAM guidance. The City of Baltimore and its counsel Democracy Forward argue that the FAM guidance would deter immigrant families from accepting Baltimore’s public benefits such as housing, healthcare, education and other assistance programs. The City further argues that they would be forced to expend resources to encourage immigrants to accept these benefits, and that it would impose costs on Baltimore’s programs and city as a whole.

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