On Monday, April 26, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider Texas’ effort to reinstate a Trump-written rule on immigration and the definitions of public charge. Under longstanding immigration law, a public charge is any noncitizen who will likely become “primarily” reliant on certain government assistance programs, meaning that they provide more than half of their income. Immigrants deemed a public charge cannot receive a green card for citizenship.


The Trump Administration, through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), implemented the public charge rule on February 24, 2020, expanding the definition of “public charge” as it applies to immigrants legally seeking to enter the United States or adjusting their legal status (green card status). Under the Trump rule, the Administration would be required to consider the use of health care, housing, and nutrition programs as a potential sign that a person will become a public charge.


The changes had dramatically expanded the definition of public charge and threatened to deny or scare away people in need of basic human services, including health care—a potentially dangerous exclusion, especially once the pandemic hit in 2020. The policy would have let officials deny green cards to legal immigrants who have used or are deemed likely to use SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and some other safety-net programs. CWLA opposed the 2019 public charge rule and submitted comments.


Several lower courts blocked the rule in late 2019 and 2020, and the Trump Administration took it to the Supreme Court, and the Court was scheduled to hear the arguments. On March 9, 2021, the Biden Administration asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the hearing following President Biden’s earlier action that ordered officials to start a review of the public charge rule.


The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that it would not hear the Texas-led case that included 13 other states to revive the immigration rule. In earlier court filings, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton claimed that without the Trump rule in place, “our Medicaid budget and other vital services will explode and be spread too thin, costing taxpayers millions more and reducing the quality of service we can provide.” Attorney General Paxton has challenged many issues before the Supreme Court, including challenges to the ACA (pending), the legality of the 2020 presidential election in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).