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District Court Enjoins Both DHS and State Department Public Charge Rules

Today, Judge George B. Daniels of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued nationwide preliminary injunctions in two separate cases that suspend Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State implementation of their public charge rules. 

The rules being challenged have significantly increased the burden on foreign nationals to establish that they will not become a “public charge” of the U.S. government. Pausing the new rules means a return to public charge guidance in place before their effective date of February 24, 2020.

DHS Public Charge Rule

In the case NY et al. v. DHS, the court ordered suspension of the DHS public charge rule during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted several nationwide injunctions barring implementation of the DHS rule. In April 2020, the plaintiffs sought a renewed injunction against the rule from the Supreme Court due to the changed circumstances of the COVID emergency. The Court denied the request, but noted the ruling did not preclude the plaintiffs from seeking relief at the district court level. Today’s ruling is the result of that district court request.

Today’s injunction prevents DHS from requiring applicants and petitioners to comply with the public charge regulation when filing Form I-485 applications for adjustment of status, Form I-129 nonimmigrant worker petitions, and Form I-539 applications to change or extend status.

State Department Public Charge Rule

In a separate case, Make the Road et al v. DOS, Judge Daniels also enjoined the State Department’s public charge rule, along with its 2018 public charge guidelines to consular officers, holding that they likely violate the Administrative Procedures Act.

The public charge rule was still in a “transitional” phase at the State Department, but the injunction would have a practical impact on mostly immigrant visa and some nonimmigrant visa applications at U.S. consulates.

In Make the Road, the court also enjoined the Trump Administration’s October 2019 health insurance proclamation which had already been enjoined separately by the Ninth Circuit.

What’s Next

DHS and the State Department are likely to appeal these court orders, but also should issue guidance in the meantime regarding the filing of impacted immigration applications. 

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