A New York federal court temporarily blocked U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from implementing rules regarding inadmissibility on public charge grounds amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals limited the injunction only to states within the Second Circuit.
On July 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction that applies nationwide for the duration of the ongoing public health crisis. New York City and the states of New York, Connecticut and Vermont were the plaintiffs in the case. U.S. District Judge George Daniels found that the plaintiffs had provided “ample evidence” that showed the public charge rules discourage immigrants from undergoing COVID-19 testing and seeking out health care services for fear of immigration repercussions, thereby hurting efforts to contain the coronavirus.
USCIS announced that it would comply with the SDNY decision.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security first announced the revised public charge rules on August 14, 2019, widening the definition under which immigrants could be considered a public charge. The policy allowed USCIS to evaluate a green card applicant’s past usage of public benefits, including public housing subsidies and food stamps, to determine an Applicant’s likelihood of becoming a public charge. The government could deny permanent resident status based on an individual’s reliance on government assistance.
On August 12, 2020, and in response to a DHS motion, the Second Circuit issued an Order lifting the District Court’s July 29, 2020 injunction to all states other than New York, Connecticut and Vermont, states within the Second Circuit. USCIS has not yet responded to the August 12, 2020, Second Circuit Order.