Attorney General Bonta Leads Coalition in Support of Current Federal Effort to Revise “Public Charge” Regulations

Tuesday, April 26, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

Urges swift action to undo sweeping harms of Trump-era rulemaking on states and their communities

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta and New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced leading a coalition of 21 attorneys general in a comment letter applauding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) current efforts to revise “public charge” regulations. The proposed rule is consistent with applicable law and will support state efforts to protect the health, safety, and well-being of immigrant families and all the state’s residents. In the comment letter, the attorneys general urge swift action to undo the sweeping harms of the Trump-era regulations on the states and their communities across the country.

“Public programs are a key part of supporting the well-being of our neighborhoods,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Our immigrant communities should know that they can and should access them if they are in need. During this pandemic in particular, we’ve seen firsthand that — no matter where you come from — our health and safety is interconnected. The Biden Administration’s proposed ‘public charge’ rule recognizes this important principle and it is exactly what you’d expect to see from responsible leadership. We urge swift action to finalize this rule, which will help our states protect the health, safety, and well-being of all of our residents.”

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. The previous administration sought to expand the definition of a public charge by declaring that the use of additional government programs constitutes grounds for such a determination, including the use of healthcare through federally-funded Medicaid, nutrition and food support through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Section 8 housing assistance. Following court decisions across the country blocking the Trump-era rule, the federal government formally vacated it in March 2021. The current rulemaking by the federal government is part of an ongoing effort to reverse the harms of the now-defunct Trump-era rule, which burdened states with additional healthcare costs and harmed public health and the economic well-being of the state’s residents.

In the comment letter, the coalition, building on previous efforts, notes:

  • The proposed rule is consistent with the well-settled meaning of public charge;
  • The states encourage DHS to exclude consideration of state benefits from any public charge determination;
  • The proposed rule will ameliorate unwarranted chilling effects on public benefit use;
  • The proposed rule will allow states to better respond to COVID-19 and future public health emergencies; and
  • The proposed rule will support the overall well-being of state residents and reduce unnecessary costs to state operations and agencies.

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

A copy of the comment letter is available here.

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