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Attorney General News Release 2019-54 Public Charge Rule

Posted on Sep 6, 2019 in Main

HONOLULU – Attorney General Clare E. Connors, joined a coalition of 13 other state attorneys general headed by Washington Attorney General Robert W. Ferguson and Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring, in a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, challenging the changes made to its “public charge” rule, which target legally present immigrant families. The First Amended Complaint, adding Hawaii as a party, asserts that the amended rule violates the federal immigration statutes, the Welfare Reform Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiff states also filed a motion this afternoon to stop implementation of the rules. A copy of the motion is attached.

Under long-standing law and policies, a public charge is an individual whose survival depends upon a specific public benefit ― cash assistance ― or who is institutionalized for long-term care at government expense. This does not include temporary assistance, such as food or housing assistance or health care. Immigration officers can deny new visas, visa renewals and lawful permanent residency under the public charge rule only if the applicant meets this concrete definition. If an individual already present in the United States becomes a public charge, they can be deported.

Under the new rule, a public charge now will include lawfully present individuals or families who will use a broad range of federal assistance for housing, food or health care at any time in the future, for as short as four months. The new rule does not apply to undocumented immigrants, because they cannot access federal benefits without a lawful status. The new definition expands immigration officials’ ability to deny visas and permanent residency to any individual who they predict may use these types of assistance in the future. If permanent residents who have used government assistance leave the country for 180 days, they may also be labeled a public charge when they apply to return, potentially losing their status.

The plaintiff states assert that the rule change will cause a chilling effect for legally present immigrant families who are eligible for public assistance benefits, causing them to disenroll from, or not apply for the benefits out of fear that it will negatively impact their family’s immigration status. As a result of the rule amendments, it is anticipated that the states’ residents (including U.S. children born to immigrant parents) will suffer from loss of health coverage, homelessness, hunger, and food insecurity.

“This federal rule increases the challenges already faced by vulnerable members of our community,” said Attorney General Connors. “The government should not intimidate residents who are legally present and who are in short term need of assistance.”

In addition to Hawaii, the other plaintiff states include Washington, Virginia, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and Rhode Island.

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For more information, contact:

Krishna F. Jayaram

Special Assistant to the Attorney General

(808) 586-1284

Email: [email protected]


Twitter: @ATGHIgov