Federal Judge Vacates Trump Administration’s ‘Public Charge’ Rule

November 2, 2020 Updated: November 2, 2020

A federal judge in Chicago threw out a key immigration rule on Monday that makes it easier for the Trump administration to deny legal status to immigrants who receive public assistance.

Judge Gary Feinerman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, an Obama appointee, issued a nationwide halt to the “public charge” rule, saying that it is an arbitrary and discriminatory policy that places too much pressure on county services by causing immigrants who fear deportation to go without critical services such as emergency medical care.

The rule, which was first introduced in 2019, increases the chances of green card application rejection for immigrants who have received any of a number of welfare benefits for more than 12 months in a three-year period.

It provides clarification about what factors would be considered when determining whether someone is likely at any time in the future to become a public charge. A public charge refers to an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence through assistance such as food stamps or Medicaid.

The decision had taken effect recently after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a hold on the policy following lawsuits. In July, the Trump administration was blocked from enforcing the immigration rule until the pandemic-related national emergency is over.

Feinerman ruled that the regulation violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), meaning it must be vacated. The act makes federal agencies accountable to the public by outlining a detailed process for enacting regulations. The judge ruled that the government cut too many corners in issuing the regulation.

Monday’s decision came after the judge previously issued his own injunction blocking the rule from taking effect. That order was later upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.

In issuing the nationwide halt, Feinerman rejected the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) request to confine his ruling to Illinois. The judge said that under the APA, when an agency violates its terms the rule “shall” be set aside. Vacating a regulation “is simply what courts do when they determine that an agency action violates the APA,” it said.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman Dan Hetlage told The Epoch Times in a statement that USCIS has “ceased applying the public charge final rule to pending applications and petitions following a Nov. 2, 2020, order by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois that vacated the rule.”

“USCIS will fully comply with the decision and issue additional forthcoming guidance while the agency reviews the decision,” he added.

The DHS and the Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.

Janita Kan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.