Attorney General Bonta Co-Leads Multistate Coalition in Fighting for Health and Nutrition Stability for Immigrant Families

Saturday, October 28, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta and New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced leading a coalition of 17 attorneys general in support of the Biden administration’s defense of its revised “public charge” regulations, which determine who can obtain or keep legal immigration status. The revised regulations reject harmful Trump-era changes, which caused hardworking immigrants and their families to avoid or refuse critical health, nutrition, and housing programs for which they qualified. In the amicus brief, the coalition of attorneys general emphasized the importance of the Biden administration’s new rule, which support their states’ efforts to protect the health and well-being of immigrant families and all the states’ residents. The revised “public charge” regulations are a significant benefit to California, which is home to over 10 million immigrants. Half of all children in California have a parent who is an immigrant.

“Immigrants are a central part of our nation’s identity, culture, and prosperity,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Hardworking immigrants helped build this nation and are the backbone of our economy. The shameful Trump-era public charge rule caused many immigrant families and parents to forego public programs like healthcare and nutritional assistance — we must not allow such a cruel policy to be resurrected. California stands with the Biden Administration in its fight to ensure immigrant families are unafraid to access programs designed to build strong, healthy communities.”

Longstanding guidance by the federal government has defined a “public charge” as a person who is primarily and permanently dependent on either public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutional long-term care at the government’s expense. Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, a noncitizen who is likely to become a public charge is generally inadmissible to the United States and ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident. In 2019, the Trump administration issued the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule, which dramatically expanded the definition of a public charge to include even short-term use of supplemental federal government programs like Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance — even as little as $17 a month. Following court decisions across the country blocking the Trump-era rule, it was formally vacated in March 2021.

In December 2022, a new Public Charge Final Rule issued by the Biden administration came into effect. The new rule sought to undo the sweeping harms of the Trump-era rule by largely restoring the long-standing public charge policy. The rule is now facing a legal challenge in the Southern District of Texas after the state of Texas filed a lawsuit (Texas v. Mayorkas) to block its enforcement and resurrect the Trump administration’s harmful 2019 rule.

In the amicus brief, the coalition of attorneys general supported the Biden administration’s defense of its rule, arguing that the 2022 rule is consistent with applicable law, and will help encourage their states’ residents, including immigrants and their families, to enroll in and access health and nutrition programs for which they are eligible.

This would benefit the states by:

  • Supporting the states’ efforts to promote the health and general wellbeing of their residents and communities.
  • Improving immunization rates and thus allowing states to better respond to infectious disease outbreaks and public health crises.
  • Promoting the health and achievement of students by increasing enrollment in school lunch programs and related school-based activities.
  • Reducing the financial and administrative burden on states’ agencies, public health systems, and safety net providers.

In filing the comment letter, California and New York are joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.

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