On Wednesday, July 29, a Judge in the Southern District of New York ruled that the public charge rule could not be implemented during a national emergency declaration. The public charge rule is explained in a former blog post as being put in place so that “an alien who is likely at any time to become a public charge” will be “generally inadmissible to the United States and ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident.” However, due to out of the ordinary circumstances COVID-19 has brought on, the use of the public charge rule has been widely debated in and out of courts.
USCIS had issued former guidance on the public charge rule and had assured immigrants that certain terms of the public charge rule would be relaxed due to the pandemic; however, Judge George Daniels details in his ruling that USCIS did not issue comprehensive guidance or assurance. The judge sided with the argument that the fear of being considered a ‘public charge’ may keep immigrants from seeking COVID-19 testing or relief, which would further endanger the American public. Due to these reasons, Judge Daniels issued his ruling where he blocked USCIS from implementing the Public Charge Rule during the national emergency declaration.
Though a ruling has been put in place, it is quite possible that the decision will be brought to the Supreme Court. However, On July 31, 2020, USCIS issued an announcement in response to the SDNY injunction stating that it will not apply the 2019 Public Charge rule, but rather will apply the 1999 public charge guidance while the SDNY decision is in effect.
USCIS stated that for applications and petitions that USCIS adjudicates on or after July 29, 2020, it will not consider any information provided by an applicant or petitioner that relates to the Public Charge Rule, including information provided on the Form I-944, or information on the receipt of public benefits in Part 5 on Form I-539, Part 3 on Form I-539A or Part 6 on Form I-129.In addition, applicants and petitioners whose applications or petitions are postmarked on or after July 29, 2020, should not include the Form I-944 or provide information about the receipt of public benefits on Form I-485, Form I-129, or Form I-539/I-539A.