11 States File Motion To Intervene In Ninth Circuit Case Over Public Charge Rule

Eleven states, led by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, have filed a motion to intervene in a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case over challenges to a 2018 public charge rule change that required immigrants coming to the U.S. to prove they could financially support themselves.

The Biden administration removed the rule change, effective March 9. Subsequently, the Department of Homeland Security announced on March 11 it will no longer apply the rule.

In a statement, it said it had “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 N. Mayorkas said DHS would be working “to ensure immigrants and their families have accurate information about our public charge policies. DHS is committed to implementing reforms that improve our immigration system and reduce unnecessary barriers to legal immigration.”

Previously, family-sponsored immigrants were required to fill out an affidavit of support, which the DHS also withdrew.

Mayorkas said the 2018 rule “was not in keeping with our nation’s values” because, “It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them.”

The new DHS policy reverts to a Clinton-era 1999 policy that allowed immigrants to come to the United States and enroll in taxpayer-funded welfare programs.

“Under the 1999 interim field guidance, DHS will not consider a person’s receipt of Medicaid (except for Medicaid for long-term institutionalization), public housing, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination,” the DHS statement reads. Vaccinations and other medical treatments for COVID-19 will also not be considered public charge costs.

But 11 Republican attorneys general disagree. On the same day as the rule change was revoked, they filed a motion to intervene in a case on appeal related to the matter. In their brief, they argue that removing the rule change was a “reckless violation of federal law” that will create “another national crisis” and cost taxpayers and states roughly $1 billion.

Currently, the federal government funds all SNAP food expenses and roughly 50 percent of allowable administrative costs for regular operating expenses. Costs the federal government pays for Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) in some U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) programs like Medicaid vary, and the states share a financial burden. Since these rates vary, DHS uses the average FMAP across all states and U.S. territories of 59 percent to estimate the amount of state transfer payments, the brief notes.

Increasing the number of illegal and legal immigrants who can enroll in Medicaid and CHIP would increase the states’ spending on these programs and require them to make budget adjustments elsewhere.

“Admitting aliens into the United States who are not likely to utilize this resource will make this program more accessible to others who are in need,” the complaint states.

Attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia joined Brnovich’s lawsuit.

They argue depriving the states of $1 billion in savings from the previous administration rule change causes them injury and overburdens their already overstretched programs.

Separately, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued after President Joe Biden issued an executive order to freeze deportation policies. A federal judge overruled the president last month, first temporarily pausing Biden’s moratorium twice before he ultimately halted it indefinitely.

Arizona and Montana have also challenged the White House’s “Interim Guidance” issued last month by the acting director of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

In a 2017 Rasmussen Reports national poll of U.S. voters, 62 percent expressed support for the Trump-era rule change. The majority supported barring legal and illegal immigrants from receiving welfare benefits for at least five years. Twenty-six percent opposed it; 12 percent were undecided.

According to the Migration Policy Institute’s (MPI) report, “Chilling Effects: The Expected Public Charge Rule and Its Impact on Legal Immigrant Families’ Public Benefits Use,” 10.3 million out of 22 million foreign nationals in the U.S. are enrolled in at least one taxpayer-funded federal welfare program (Medicaid, TANF or SSI benefits, food stamps and/or Social Security). Children aged 17 and younger account for 54.2 percent of foreign nationals.

Bethany Blankley | The Center Square