Last week, the Supreme Court formally agreed to become involved in the so called “Public Charge” rule which affects many low income immigrants.  The issue at hand is whether 14 states have standing to challenge President Biden‘s decision to rescind President Trump‘s regulation barring immigration to anyone who might end up on the public assistance.  The California-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled the states did not have standing, but that decision was appealed, and the high court will now step in. The public charge provision states that, “Any alien who … at the time of application for a visa, or … at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible.”  The provision states further that in determining whether an alien is inadmissible because he is likely to become a public charge, consideration should be given to his (I) age; (II) health; (III) family status; (IV) assets, resources, and financial status; (V) education and skills; and any affidavit of support — a contract that someone, usually a relative, signs agreeing to support the prospective immigrant if he becomes unable to support himself.

Under the prior DHS regulations, which had been in effect since 1999, only cash government benefits that the alien has or will receive were considered in determining whether he is likely to become a public charge. Consideration wasn’t given to non-cash benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stampsMedicaid; or housing subsidies. Emphasis was placed on whether he would be “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.”  On Aug. 4, 2019, the Trump administration published regulations that added consideration of non-cash benefits to “better ensure that aliens subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground are self-sufficient, i.e., do not depend on public resources to meet their needs, but rather rely on their own capabilities, as well as the resources of family members, sponsors, and private organizations.”

The Supreme Court will likely hear arguments within the next month on the issue.