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States ask Supreme Court to reconsider ‘public charge’ immigration rule
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States ask Supreme Court to reconsider ‘public charge’ immigration rule

New York, Connecticut and Vermont asked the US Supreme Court on Monday to consider temporarily lifting or modifying the implementation of the “public charge” rule due to concerns about COVID-19 and the president’s declaration of a national state of emergency.

The Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to begin enforcing the “public charge” rule in January. Under the rule, an immigrant may be deemed to be a “public charge” if the immigrant is expected to receive any amount of public benefits, including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers, during “more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period” of the immigrant’s life. Therefore, the plaintiffs argued, the rule is discouraging immigrants from accessing health benefits because they fear if they come forward, it will threaten their eligibility for citizenship.

The states’ attorneys general argued that the “public charge” rule acts to deter immigrants “from accessing healthcare and public benefits that are essential tools” used to protect the public at large and limit the spread and severity of COVID-19. Department of Homeland Security officials treat a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) applicant’s receipt of public benefits as a negative factor in their “public-charge analysis,” even when such benefits are used to obtain treatment or testing for COVID-19. This deterrent poses a significant problem because many immigrants are highly vulnerable to the novel virus since they work in industries that have been deemed “essential” and thus continue to operate in high-risk environments.

The new petition asks the judges to consider how the avoidance of Medicaid and other publicly funded healthcare programs will prevent immigrants from receiving testing and treatment for COVID-19 and therefore jeopardize the health and safety of not only immigrants and their families but also the public at large.

For more on COVID-19, see our special coverage.