On March 9, 2021, the Biden Administration put an end to the 2019 public charge rule implemented by the Trump Administration. The Biden Administration took the final step in ending the controversial rule that was part of Donald Trump’s efforts to restrict legal immigration. The 2019 public charge rule made it increasingly difficult for immigrants to obtain lawful permanent resident status if the government determined they had relied on or would be at risk of relying on public benefits.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) dismissed pending appeals relating to the public charge rule at the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced that the Biden Administration would no longer defend the 2019 public charge, stating, “The 2019 public charge rule was not in keeping with our nation’s values. It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them.”
This new development is a big victory for immigrants and their advocates. The term “public charge” was first included in U.S. law in the early 1880s, but the Trump Administration “expanded the definition of the term, which effectively means being deemed an economic burden on the country, by broadening the types and amount of government aid that would count against immigrants seeking to become lawful permanent residents.”
Immigrant advocates were critical of the Trump-Era rule, which targeted lower-income immigrants and their families and was deemed a “wealth-test.” According to an Urban Institute report conducted this year, “Over 13% of adults in immigrant households reported foregoing government aid in 2020 because of fear it would jeopardize their immigration cases.”
Overall, in taking this step to end the Trump-era rule, the Biden Administration continues to fulfill its promise to undo the damage that the Trump Administration wrought on the immigration system over the last four years. This change will undoubtedly allow more immigrants to be eligible for lawful permanent resident status in the United States moving forward.