Broad Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Historians, Policy Leaders, Legal Experts, Members of Congress, and More Join Effort to Fight Harmful Public Charge Rule

Friday, January 24, 2020
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Working families across the U.S. rely on safety net programs – if the rule were applied to citizens across the country, a substantial portion would likely be considered a ‘public charge’

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

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced that a broad coalition of healthcare providers, historians, policy leaders, legal experts, members of Congress, and more filed amicus briefs in support of the state’s efforts to stop the Trump Administration’s harmful public charge rule. The rule unnecessarily targets working immigrants and their families by turning the use of critical health, nutrition, and housing programs that supplement their modest incomes into barriers to lawful admission to the United States. The amicus briefs filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit raise a wide range of concerns with the rule and highlight why implementation should be halted.

“This public charge rule is a cruel attempt to coerce hardworking families to go without basic necessities,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Access to critical food and housing programs should never be used as a bargaining chip. It goes against everything California stands for. This broad coalition of medical professionals, legal experts, members of Congress, and more, are standing with us to say this is unacceptable. Together, we’ll continue to fight for the rights of those aspiring to the American Dream.”

Public benefit programs are designed to help working families make ends meet and ensure strong, healthy families in California. Long-standing guidance by the federal government defined 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 new rule declares that use of additional federally funded government programs, including nutrition and food support through CalFresh (California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), healthcare through Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program), and housing for families through Section 8 housing assistance, may now constitute grounds for a public charge determination. These changes would discourage many eligible immigrants and mixed immigration-status families, who are not otherwise subject to the rule, from accessing benefits to which they are entitled. The rule could have an outsized impact on California, where one in four people are immigrants and one in two children have an immigrant parent. It will also make it harder for hard-working, low- and moderate-income immigrants to be admitted into the United States or to get green cards. The new standards are so high that if they were applied to citizens across the country, a substantial portion would likely be considered a ‘public charge.’ 

In 20 filings with the court, the diverse coalition raises a number of concerns with the federal government’s public charge rule. For instance, the rule:

  • Runs Contrary to Congressional Intent: The U.S. House of Representatives asserts that the rule fundamentally deviates from Congressional intent and runs counter to longstanding judicial and administrative understanding of the term public charge;
  • Threatens Older Adults: A coalition representing the interests of older adults across the country notes that the rule threatens the well-being of hundreds of thousands of caregivers who help supply critical aid to millions of people who need assistance with dressing, bathing, eating, and other daily tasks both at home and in nursing facilities;
  • Burdens Hospitals: The American Hospital Association points to estimates that the Trump Administration’s rule puts hospitals at risk of spending as much as $17 billion every year in additional uncompensated care costs as the result of immigrants and their families disenrolling from Medicaid;
  • Harms Local Governments: Dozens of counties and local governments, which are responsible for the public health, housing, and nutrition of their residents, argue that the rule will force localities to fill funding gaps left by the federal government and grapple with the compounding consequences of the rule;
  • Increases Housing Instability: Non-profit and labor organizations highlight the impossible bar set by the rule by noting that, in 90 percent of U.S. counties, a person working full-time and earning the average renter’s wage cannot afford a modest two-bedroom rental home;
  • Undermines Economic Growth: A coalition of 105 business and organizations highlights estimates that the rule could result in over $80 billion in losses to the American economy; and
  • Creates an Unworkable Definition of “Medical Condition”: The American Academy of Pediatrics expresses concern that the vague definition of “medical condition” is overbroad and unworkable with no explicit requirement that such claims must be documented by a medical professional, exposing children, individuals with disabilities, pregnant women, and other vulnerable groups to harm under the rule.

Amicus briefs in support of the states’ lawsuit were filed by numerous non-profits, municipalities, and professional associations, including: 105 Business and Organizations; American Civil Liberties Union; American Academy of Pediatrics; American Hospital Association; Asian Americans Advancing Justice; Association of Counties; Center for Reproductive Rights; Congressional Tri-Caucus; Education Legal Alliance; Fiscal Policy Institute; U.S. House of Representatives; Immigration Law Professors; Institute for Policy Integrity; Justice in Aging; Legal Historians; National Consumer Law Center; National Housing Law Project; Non-Profit Anti-Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Organizations; Public Health Deans; and Public Justice Center.

Attorney General Becerra has fought against the Trump Administration’s public charge rule every step of the way. In 2018, Attorney General Becerra called on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to withdraw its initial public charge proposal. In 2019, Attorney General Becerra detailed how the rule will negatively impact California’s public health, social services, housing, educational programs, and economy. Shortly afterward, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit asserting 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. The Attorney General also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to halt the rule’s implementation. There is currently a nationwide injunction in place out of New York, blocking the rule from being implemented.

Attorney General Becerra is joined in the lawsuit by the attorneys general of Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

Copies of the amicus briefs can be found in the online version of this release here.

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