Immigrant Advocates Denounce SCOTUS Decision to Let Public Charge Rule Change Go Forward

New York, NY—Yesterday, in a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court of the United States granted the Trump administration’s request to stay the previously issued federal injunction that blocked the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) public charge rule from going forward. The Court’s decision on Monday, January 27, 2020, lifts the federal injunction and allows the administration’s changes to go forward.
The changes to the public charge rule means immigrants who access certain federally-funded programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, and subsidized housing assistance could be deemed public charges and, as a result, have their applications for green cards or certain visas denied. Not all immigrants are affected by the rule, as it excludes legal permanent residents, refugees, asylees, victims of trafficking, and other protected groups. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for most public benefits, and therefore will similarly not be affected by the rule. New Yorkers who have questions about the new rule and whether it applies to them should contact the Office for New Americans hotline at 1-800-566-7636 to receive more information.

“There is no limit to the Trump Administration’s cruelty and animosity towards immigrants in America. Today’s SCOTUS ruling aids the Trump Administration’s racist agenda to open America’s doors to only the white and the wealthy while closing our doors to everyone else. Now hard-working immigrant families must make the impossible choice between feeding their children and changing their legal status. It’s a choice that none of us should ever have to make,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. 

“This rule is anti-American and harmful to families. America has long recognized that access to essential services like health care, housing, and nutrition assistance help families survive and thrive. This rule change could result in thousands, if not millions, of children losing access to essential services—an unacceptable reality that we must all fiercely oppose,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. 

“Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled to allow President Trump's public charge rule to take effect, which is another assault on immigrants. This draconian rule will deny them critical safety net programs for health care, housing, food and other basic needs. Legal immigrants have and may forego these critical safety net programs for fear of deportation. That’s why I'll be introducing the ‘No Public Charge Deportation Act’ to remove public charge as a ground of deportation. The President's' immigration policies are heartless and immoral!” said Congresswoman Grace Meng.  

“I could not be more disappointed by today’s Supreme Court’s decision allowing the Trump administration’s hardline public charge rule to go into effect. The public charge policy, which denies green cards and visas to immigrants on the mere suspicion that they might one day use lawfully available public benefits, fundamentally targets low-income, legal immigrants—it should come as no surprise that public charge is commonly referred to as a ‘wealth test’. The consequences of the Supreme Court’s cruel, unconscionable decision are clear: millions of working families, forced to choose between lawfully earning permanent status and relying on public services, will now find themselves unable to put food on the table, at heightened risk of homelessness and vulnerable to preventable disease,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler. 

“The Trump Administration’s hateful ‘public charge’ rule will intimidate immigrants from using social safety net programs. It could result in the children of immigrants being denied nutrition, healthcare, and other benefits. The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to lift this injunction is deeply disturbing and I, for one, plan to explore all legislation options to reverse this policy,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. 

“This is devastating. Since this hateful rule change was first proposed, the City has already seen its chilling impacts: individuals have disenrolled or chosen not to enroll in public benefit programs that they are lawfully eligible for, out of fear. It goes against our City’s policies regarding nutrition, healthcare, and housing and could have significant consequences on our City’s public health. To fight back, the City Council passed several bills last year to help those who can be affected by this new rule, including connecting New Yorkers to free and trusted legal services. If you, a loved one, or any New Yorker you know has questions or concerns about this new public charge rule, please call ActionNYC to receive free, safe, and confidential immigration legal help. You can call 1-800-354-0365 between 9AM-6PM, Monday - Friday or call 311 and say ‘ActionNYC,’” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. 

“The Supreme Court’s decision to allow the public charge rule to go into effect is not only morally repugnant but economically irresponsible. The American Dream shouldn’t be reserved for an exclusive wealthy few—it should be attainable to all. But this policy takes direct aim at primarily low-income people who seek assistance and will do immeasurable harm to our city. New York City is home to more than 3 million immigrants from over 150 countries. These New Yorkers are our neighbors, our colleagues, our classmates, and our family members. They are part of the fabric of this city, and we’re going to keep standing up for an America where everyone has a fair and fighting chance to make it,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. 

“This president and his ultra-conservative Supreme Court are demonstrating their disdain for immigrants and the tenets of our country. Actions like this, coupled with his dog-whistle rhetoric that promotes hatred, bigotry, and xenophobia run counter to what we as a country strive for. History will tell the tale of a president's shameful acts that sought to separate a country from its core beliefs of protecting and caring for the people on American soil, as well as those who seek refuge," said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. 

"I've said it before: The Trump Administration’s ‘public charge’ rule change is a vile insult. The Supreme Court has now compounded the insult by removing the stay that suspended the rule which endangers not just the 575,000 undocumented immigrants who call New York home, but all immigrants seeking citizenship nationwide,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.  

“The United States was built on the hard work of the immigrant community, and continues to thrive on the dedication of individuals who have worked their whole lives to integrate themselves into our culture and socioeconomic infrastructure. These are dedicated workers, many of whom are struggling to raise a family, but maintain a focus on improving their economic situation while working towards financial independence and the betterment of the community. It is imperative that as a country of immigrants, the United States continues to provide public assistance to those who are underserved as they strive to help others contribute to the growth of this great nation. I join my colleagues and immigration advocates in supporting the rights of our immigrant residents to receive public benefit programs as the first steps on their path to success,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene.   

“The expansion of the “public charge” rule is the Trump administration’s virulently classist attempt at drastically decreasing immigration into this country, and it runs counter to our history and tradition. Our immigration system was built on the premise that a person could come here with nothing, and improve the quality of life for themselves and their posterity while in turn improving our nation. Had the equivalent of this rule been in operation when many of our ancestors came to this country, most of us would not be here. Today’s ruling will be remembered as another instance in which this administration betrayed the very values we were founded upon,” said Council Member Justin Brannan.  

“Today’s terrible decision to allow the administration to move forward with the public charge rule adds another chilling layer of fear that vulnerable immigrants will feel throughout the country. In New York City, since this rule was first proposed, we heard countless stories of immigrants who withdrew from or refused to apply for critical nutritional or health benefits that they were legally entitled to. What the Supreme Court allowed is nothing more than a racist wealth test that runs contrary to the American Dream and American values. The legal fight is not over. We will continue the fight in the courts and to keep reminding our immigrant neighbors of their rights to ensure that we reverse the harm this administration is causing. In the meantime, New York City has your back. If you or a loved one have questions about the public charge rule and how it might affect you, please reach out to ActionNYC to speak to receive free, safe, and confidential immigration legal help. You can call 1-800-354-0365 between 9AM-6PM, Monday - Friday or call 311 and say ‘ActionNYC.’ We strongly encourage you to speak to an attorney before you make any changes to your benefits,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.  

“This calamitous decision by the Supreme Court on public charge will only hurt hard working immigrant New Yorkers by threatening to cut them off from housing, nutrition and other aid programs or risk their ability to receive a visa or green card. We must work together as a City now more than ever to ensure that all New Yorkers receive the support they need and fight to bring in a new Presidential administration that will reverse this shameful rule,” said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera. 

“The decision issued by SCOTUS is harmful and seeks to codify cruelty. It is unequivocally wrong that the current Administration deny green cards, visas, and entry to the U.S. to working class immigrants who access public benefits. The new public charge rule will create a detrimental effect on our economy, and could cause hard-working people to go hungry. Everyone who is entitled to public benefits should be able to access them without fear. New York City will continue to fight against the adoption of the public charge rule and remain committed to helping our immigrant population thrive even if the federal government remains negligent,” said Council Member Mark Treyger. 

“African Services Committee represents some of the most vulnerable populations who will be devastated by the implementation of the Administration’s racist and xenophobic Public Charge regulation. The bottom line is that under well-established law, the Executive Branch may not carry out policies specifically rejected by Congress,” said Gabriel Guimaraes, Staff Attorney at African Services Committee.  

“Community Legal Advocates strongly opposes this Administration’s efforts to expand the ‘public charge’ rule, part of its ongoing effort to demonize immigrants and their families. We are extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court has allowed this draconian rule to go into effect. In our work with immigrant families on LI, we see firsthand that the expansion of the public charge rule puts families at risk and is already forcing people to choose between receiving essential benefits for food, health care and housing, and their future status in the U.S. The decision is wrong and the proposed expanded rule should be condemned and rejected,” said Ann Dibble, Executive Director, Community Legal Advocates of New York.  

“As the nation’s largest social services nonprofit for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, CPC understands that this rule will be devastating for generations to come. CPC believes that immigrants should not have to choose between staying in this country and getting access to food, housing, and healthcare. The Supreme Court decision is a devastating blow to solidify one of the widest-reaching attacks in a series of anti-immigrant laws and policies to come out of this Federal Administration,” said Wayne Ho, President & CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council. 

“Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, healthcare in New York City remains available to all -- our doors remain open and we want you to get the care you need. The new public charge rule primarily affects specific categories of immigrants applying for a green card. The new rule does not affect all immigrant New Yorkers enrolled in public benefits. It does not directly impact citizen children of immigrants. It does not penalize people for enrolling in Emergency Medicaid, Medicaid for Pregnant Women, the Essential Plan, or the City's new NYC Care program. The public charge policy intends to instill fear even in those who are not directly impacted. NYC Health + Hospitals makes available on-site, free, confidential legal resources for its patients through our long-standing partnership with NYLAG LegalHealth, which patients can reach by calling 212-659-6188,” said Mitchell Katz, MD, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals. 

"As we try to understand the ruling, one thing we know for sure is that this will continue to instill fear and misunderstanding within our communities. We must work to ensure that there are no barriers to requesting public assistance benefits, especially for fear that this will negatively impact one's immigration status. This administration cannot use public charge as a way to strong-arm an alternative agenda. We will continue to fight alongside our fellow leaders to both protect our communities and also fight for their rights," said Linda Lee, President & CEO of Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Inc. 

"We are dismayed to hear of the Supreme Court's decision to stop the injunction against the public charge rule change and therefore allow the rule change to go forward.  Our community has been made richer because of five generations of immigrants from all income levels. This rule change is one of several changes or proposals that send a message that only the wealthy are welcome," said Mae Lee, Executive Director of the Chinese Progressive Association.  

"City Harvest believes that no one should have to choose between putting food on the table and living in our city and country. We are disheartened by the recent decision on the public charge rule and the potential impact it will have on hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. The fear and confusion caused by this rule has already driven too many families away from SNAP and other critical resources. Food is a basic right, and we will continue to work hard to ensure our neighbors in need have enough food for themselves and their families--no matter who they are or where they come from,” said Jilly Stephens, Executive Director of City Harvest. 

“Since taking office, the Trump Administration has done everything in its power to close America’s “golden door,” as inscribed in the base of the Statue of Liberty, to those who come here in search of safety and opportunity. The American Dream was first, and is still, an immigrant’s dream; it has always promised a better life. But imposing arbitrary rules and a wealth test for access to that dream is unjust and irresponsible. The government should be making it easier, not harder, for working-class immigrants to move toward citizenship. Immigrants of every circumstance deserve access to the same opportunities afforded to those of us fortunate enough to have been born within these great United States,” said Ann Toback, Chief Executive Officer of The Workers Circle.  

“As a plaintiff in a suit that won the preliminary injunction, we are deeply disappointed with today’s Supreme Court decision. Essentially, we see this rule for what it is: this is a wealth test to cherry-pick who gets to come in and who stays out. Already, we are seeing immigrants who are qualified to access benefits disenrolling for fear of immigration consequences. With over 70% of Asian New Yorkers being immigrants, and one in four living in poverty, this decision directly impacts the most vulnerable members of our community. Keeping newcomers out is not a New York value, and we vow to continue the fight in the courts and in the advocacy arena,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation.  


Prior to the public charge rule changes, cash benefits and long-term medical care were the only public benefits considered as part of the “public charge” determination. The new rule will penalize certain immigrant groups for using federally-funded Medicaid, SNAP, and subsidized housing assistance. State-funded public benefit programs are not included in the rule.

Many immigrants will continue to be exempt from the public charge determination, including asylees, refugees, and survivors of trafficking and domestic violence. Legal permanent residents applying for citizenship are also not subject to the rule. For those who do not have a pathway to a green card, there is likely no benefit to disenrolling from public benefit programs. After DATE, certain immigrants could be considered a “public charge” if they use federally-funded benefit programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, and subsidized housing assistance. The rule changes are not retroactive, which means any federal benefits in the new rule that were used before the rule’s effective date CANNOT be considered in the person’s public charge determination.  It is best to consult an expert on the rule before forgoing any vital public benefits programs. New Yorkers who have concerns about public charge should contact the Office for New Americans hotline at 1-800-566-7636. 

Public charge determinations are based on a “totality of circumstances,” which considers whether a person’s income, resources, age, family situation and health would lead to dependence on government assistance in the future. Disenrolling from public benefits would not necessarily preclude someone from a public charge determination. Immigrants affected by the rule could still receive the public charge determination, regardless of whether they are enrolled in federally-funded benefits.