Appeals Court Narrows Injunction Blocking “Public Charge” Rule

On August 12, 2020, a federal appeals court narrowed a nationwide injunction that blocked implementation of the “public charge” rule for as long as the pandemic public health emergency lasts in the U.S.

Without explaining its reasoning, the appellate court narrowed the injunction to prevent implementation of the public charge rule in Connecticut, New York and Vermont, only.   As a result, the government can now apply the public charge rule to those seeking residency in all other states, including here in Maine.  (The public charge rule is also applicable to those requesting temporary visas, but as a practical matter, the rule increases paperwork and expense in those cases, but doesn’t pose a substantial risk of denial of their applications).

As of this writing, the Department of State is still enjoined from implementing the public charge rule for those who will be processing their residency or nonimmigrant visa applications at U.S. consulates abroad.  But the Presidential Proclamation blocking entry of most immigrants and many foreign workers through the end of 2020 is effectively stopping immigration, regardless of whether or not the public charge rule can be applied by consular officers.

The administration crafted its public charge rule as a back-door way to substantially reform the nation’s immigration system without involving Congress, and is likely to result in the denial of residency chiefly to hundreds of thousands of immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.  Diversity lottery immigrant visa winners are also likely to be denied the ability to immigrate, consistent with the administration’s long-stated goal of repealing the diversity lottery altogether (which Congress as yet has not agreed to do).

The appellate court’s ruling results in a patchwork of the application of the public charge rule, which will result in confusion and likely lead to immigrants being afraid to seek testing and medical care related to COVID-19 due to worry that doing so could jeopardize their, or their relatives’ immigration status.