Attorney General Becerra Leads Multistate Coalition Seeking Preliminary Injunction to Halt Trump Administration’s Harmful Public Charge Rule

Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

Working families across the U.S. rely on safety net programs – if rule were applied to citizens across the country, a substantial portion would be considered likely a ‘public charge’   

California is home to over 10 million immigrants and half of all children in the state have an immigrant parent  

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra last night led a coalition of five attorneys general in filing a motion for preliminary injunction to block the Trump Administration’s Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule, known as the “Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Public Charge Rule,” from taking effect while litigation continues. The Rule targets working immigrants and their families by creating unnecessary new barriers to lawful admission to the United States. Further, the Rule discourages eligible immigrants and their families from accessing critical health, nutrition, and housing programs that supplement their modest incomes and help them make ends meet. This rule jeopardizes the well-being of hardworking families, including women, children, people with disabilities, and seniors.

“This punitive rule is a threat to the fabric of our communities and goes against our California values,” said Attorney General Becerra. “California embraces our immigrant families, and we recognize the important role they play in our state and our economy. We will not stand by as this Administration tries to weaponize the safety net programs that support working families across the nation.”

Public benefit programs are designed to help families make ends meet and ensure strong, healthy families in California. Current guidance by the federal government defines a public charge as a person who is primarily dependent on either public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutional long-term care at the government’s expense. The Rule declares that use of additional government programs including healthcare through Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program), nutrition and food support through CalFresh (California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and housing for families through Section 8 housing assistance now constitute grounds for a public charge determination. This rule would cause significant harm to California, which is home to over 10 million immigrants. Half of all children in California have a parent who is an immigrant. The Rule would discourage eligible immigrant and mixed immigration-status families, who are not otherwise subject to the rule, from applying for benefits that they need, and are entitled to.  It will make it harder for low and moderate-income immigrants to be admitted into the United States or get green cards.  

In today’s motion, Attorney General Becerra argues that California will see serious effects, including:

California’s Economy:

  • Agriculture: Ninety-five percent of California’s farmworkers are immigrants. Labor shortages in this sector are already so severe that farmers have been forced to leave 20 percent or more of their crops in the field to rot due to lack of workers.
  • Construction: California has the highest percentage of immigrant construction workers in the nation at 42 percent. Among other things, a labor shortage jeopardizes California’s ability to prepare for natural disasters, such as recent wildfires, as well as the ability to rebuild after them, a process to which immigrant workers are critical.
  • Child Care and Early Education: Thirty-nine percent of child care and early education providers in California— 81,000 people—are immigrants. Children rely on these providers for care and education, and parents require these services to maintain their own employment. Losing child care workers will be disruptive for the children and families they help and for the economy.
  • Healthcare: Immigrants represent 33 percent of California’s healthcare work force—twice the national level. Immigrants are heavily represented in positions that provide direct care to patients, including caregivers and home health aides who assist elders and people with disabilities. If home care positions go unfilled, patients who would otherwise be able to stay in their homes may be forced to move to nursing facilities, incurring higher costs both for patients and the state and, in many cases, significantly decreasing patients’ quality of life.

California’s Public Health, Social Services, Housing, and Educational Programs:

  • Colleges and Universities: Numerous private colleges and universities in California sponsor undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-doctoral scholars from a diverse array of countries. The Rule will hurt low income graduating students, as their incomes would become a factor when they apply to change or extend their visas.
  • Nutrition Programs in Schools: California currently certifies over 730,000 children for free meals and over 310,000 children for reduced price meals due to their households’ participation in Medicaid. Additionally, almost 1.6 million children are certified for free meals due to their households’ participation in SNAP. This rule’s detrimental impact on children’s nutrition in low-income school districts will extend well beyond the children of immigrants due to a provision that allows all students in eligible communities to obtain free school meals without showing individual eligibility.
  • Vaccines for Kids: In 2017, the State Department of Public Health reportedly distributed over 11 million doses of vaccines for children to help immunize at least 2 million children, including more than 600,000 uninsured infants. The rule would prevent California from reaching the populations most in need—regardless of immigration status. This will ultimately hurt every California classroom.
  • Healthcare: More than 2 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries have noncitizen status. These individuals will face the onerous task of determining whether this rule applies to them, and then deciding whether needed healthcare is worth risking their ability to adjust their immigration status. 
  • Housing: Housing assistance brings stability to many low income and immigrant families and individuals who are working low-wage jobs that help support the economy. The Rule will discourage applicants from applying for housing assistance, creating more instability and ultimately leading families into poverty. 

On October 10, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a proposed rule that would significantly change the grounds for excluding immigrants under the Immigration and Nationality Act. On December 10, 2018, Attorney General Becerra submitted a comment letter, urging the Department of Homeland Security and the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to withdraw the proposed rule. On August 12, 2019, Attorney General Becerra detailed how the Rule will negatively impact California’s public health, social services, housing, educational programs and economy. On August 16, Attorney General Becerra and his coalition filed a lawsuit claiming the Rule will have a chilling effect that will discourage many other immigrants, who are not otherwise subject to the rule, from accessing benefits that they need and are eligible for and entitled to.

A copy of the motion is available here.  

# # #