The Biden administration on Thursday took the final step to end the controversial Trump-era rule that makes it more difficult for immigrants to obtain legal status if they use certain public benefits, such as Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court dismissed a case concerning the “public charge” rule and the Department of Homeland Security determined that continuing to defend the rule was “neither in the public interest nor an efficient use of limited government resources.”
The announcement comes as the Biden administration shifts away from the policies of the previous administration, working to strike a balance between promoting a more humane approach to immigration and still sending the message to would-be migrants not to come.
On Thursday, DHS filed with the Federal Register to formally remove the rule from federal regulation.
“Today, DHS closed the book on the public charge rule and is doing the same with respect to a proposed rule regarding the affidavit of support that would have placed undue burdens on American families wishing to sponsor individuals lawfully immigrating to the U.S.,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
In the coming weeks, Mayorkas said, DHS will work with federal agency partners and community leaders to ensure immigrants and their families have accurate information about the public charge policies.
Last month, the Supreme Court agreed to take up a challenge to the public charge rule brought by The Legal Aid Society, various groups and state and local officials. But in a brief letter to the court on Tuesday, acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the justices that both sides had agreed that the challenge should be dismissed.
President Joe Biden had called for the immediate review of the rule in an executive order which, he said, “should consider and evaluate” the effects of the rule and recommend steps agencies should take “to clearly communicate current public charge policies and proposed changes, if any, to reduce fear and confusion among impacted communities.”
The Trump rule was issued in 2019 and had been in effect in most states nationwide.
The “public charge” provision dates back at least to the Immigration Act of 1882. Federal lawmakers at the time wanted to make sure that immigrants would be able to take care of themselves and not end up being a public burden.
Under current regulations put in place in 1996, the term is defined as someone who is “primarily dependent” on government assistance, meaning it supplies more than half their income.
But it counted only cash benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income from Social Security. The Trump administration’s rule widened the definition of who is expected to be dependent on the government by including more benefit programs.
The Trump administration’s policy made national headlines when then-acting Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, in his defense of the rule, revised the iconic poem on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, saying, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”
Advocates and several states that opposed the rule had said the changes would penalize immigrants who rely on temporary assistance from the government and impose costs on the states.
CNN’s Ariane de Vogue and Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.