McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Migrant advocates are supporting the Biden administration’s new public charge rule, while Texas on Tuesday joined 13 other states to file against it in court.
The Biden administration is amending changes made during the Trump administration that had disqualified migrants from filing for citizenship if they accepted public benefits, like food stamps.
The final rule published Friday in the Federal Register changes how it is determined whether noncitizens are inadmissible to the United States because they are likely “to become a public charge,” according to the document.
Under the new rule, someone is determined to likely become a public charge if they need supplemental security income, and/or long-term institutionalization at the government’s expense.
Not included in the new rule are those needing help with rent, utilities, housing or food stamps.
“Although the term ‘public charge’ does not have a single clear meaning, its basic thrust is clear: significant reliance on the government for support. This has been the longstanding purpose of the public charge ground of inadmissibility; individuals who are unable or unwilling to work to support themselves, and who do not have other nongovernmental means of support such as family members, assets, or sponsors, are at the core of the term ‘public charge.’ Individuals who are likely to primarily rely on their own resources, while secondarily relying on some government support, are less readily characterized as public charges. DHS does not believe that the term is best understood to include a person who receives benefits from the government to help to meet some needs but is not primarily dependent on the government and instead has one or more sources of independent income or resources upon which the individual primarily relies,” according to the new rule signed by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
During an online call with media Tuesday, several migrant groups praised the changes.
“We do consider this a win for immigrants in our broader fight,” Esther Reyes, director of Immigration Policy and Advocacy with Children’s Defense Fund-Texas said. “It is safe for eligible immigrant families to use health care, nutrition and housing programs without fear of consequences.”
Zenobia Lai, of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, said the 2019 Trump-era changes to the rule caused “chilling effects.”
Anne Dunkelberg with the group Every Texan said there were significant drops in children enrolled for SNAP or food stamps, Medicaid and CHIPs rolls, especially in “mixed families,” those with citizen and non-citizen members, despite citizens qualifying for the programs.
“We’re going to be able to change that picture and outreach to all of Texans,” now Dunkelberg said.
“Letting families know that eligible immigrant families can use most of the health care and social service programs is a small win for us in an ongoing battle,” said Jennifer Duarte, of the El Paso, Texas-based Project Vida.
But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton disagrees.
On Tuesday, he announced Texas is leading a 14-state coalition that has filed a cert-stage brief in the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent the new rule from taking effect.
“With America in the midst of a recession and families across the country already facing record-high inflation, it’s completely reprehensible to expect taxpayers to foot the bill for hundreds of millions of dollars to sponsor more and more illegal aliens,” Paxton said in a statement. “But that’s exactly what Joe Biden and his entire administration have done by getting rid of the public-charge rule. I sincerely hope the Supreme Court decides to reexamine this case, because the Biden Administration’s actions have left Texas vulnerable, and our citizens deserve better.”
The Supreme Court in June dismissed an effort by GOP attorneys general, led by Texas and Arizona, to mount a legal defense of Trump’s public charge rule and dismissed the case.
Other states that are part of the brief filed Tuesday include: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia.
The 147-page brief says “Congress has long prohibited immigration by any alien likely to become a ‘public charge.'”
The brief admits that “Congress has never defined ‘public charge’ but says the president must “at a minimum consider the alien’s age; health; family status; assets, resources and financial status; and education and skills.”
The concept has been around since the late 1880s and is used to determine if a noncitizen could become a “public charge” or likely dependent on government assistance, which would make the person ineligible to obtain a green card, or lawful permanent residence.