The Trump Administration’s public charge rule has been shut down again nationwide by a U.S. District Court judge after a previous judge limited the injunction of the rule to only three states. Although it can still be brought up to and reversed by the Supreme Court, at the moment USCIS may not implement any of the administration’s new public charge changes including Form I-944.

UPDATE: A day after a public charge rule was vacated across the country, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed that decision allowing the public charge rule to take place until at least November 17, 2020. The date is the deadline for the government to issue a new brief for the appeal of the injunction from the previous court.

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What is the Public Charge Rule?

The public charge rule is essentially a wealth or income test that would deny certain foreign nationals from immigrating to the United States and those adjusting their status if there is a strong potential that they would become a burden on the public.

While some version of a public charge rule has been in effect since 1996, the Trump administration’s changes make it harder for certain immigrants. The new rules would bar anyone who uses more than 12 months of public benefits in a 36 month period. It would also consider benefits like Section 8 housing and the SNAP program among others as factors in being a public charge.

Why Was the Public Charge Rule Blocked Nationwide?

Judge Gary Feinerman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled that because the administration admitted that it violated the Administrative Procedure Act, it must be blocked nationwide. The Administrative Procedure Act dictates the process federal agencies must take when proposing and implementing new rules.

Aside from the violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, the judge noted that the new changes to the rule discriminated against non-white immigrants.

Will the Public Charge Rule Be Applied Again?

The implementation of the changes to the public charge rule has gone through a rollercoaster ride with lots of starts and stops. While many may hope this may be the final resting place of this rule, the government has indicated that they want to appeal this decision. The Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the appeal. If the Court does decide to hear the case, it’s expected that the newest justice—Amy Coney Barret—will recuse herself as she was on the appellate court that heard the case.

This means that as of November 2, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cannot apply the new rule or require use of the new Form I-944.
The Department of State is also blocked (since July 29, 2020) from applying the new public charge rule in cases decided at consulates and embassies. Embassies and consulates have not been open for routine processing during much of the pandemic. As consulates begin to process cases, they cannot apply the enjoined DOS rule related to public charge, the health insurance proclamation from October 2019, or prior guidance issued in January 2018 related to public charge.