Nessel joins coalition in support of current federal effort to revise 'public charge' regulations

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general, led by California and New York, in a comment letter applauding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) current efforts to revise “public charge” regulations. The proposed rule is consistent with applicable law and will support state efforts to protect the health, safety, and well-being of immigrant families and all the state’s residents. In the comment letter, the attorneys general urge swift action to undo the sweeping harms of the Trump-era regulations on the states and their communities across the country. 

“Protecting access to key public programs is imperative for everyone, including immigrant families,” Nessel said. “I applaud the Biden administration for revising these regulations, which will better ensure the health and safety of immigrant communities and beyond.” 

Longstanding guidance by the federal government has defined a “public charge” as a person who is primarily and permanently dependent on either public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutional long-term care at the government’s expense. Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, a noncitizen who is likely to become a public charge is generally inadmissible to the United States and ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident. The previous administration sought to expand the definition of a public charge by declaring that the use of additional government programs constitutes grounds for such a determination, including the use of healthcare through federally-funded Medicaid, nutrition and food support through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Section 8 housing assistance. Following court decisions across the country blocking the Trump-era rule, the federal government formally vacated it in March 2021. The current rulemaking by the federal government is part of an ongoing effort to reverse the harms of the now-defunct Trump-era rule, which burdened states with additional healthcare costs and harmed public health and the economic well-being of the state’s residents. 

In the comment letter, the coalition, building on previous efforts last year, notes: 

• The proposed rule is consistent with the well-settled meaning of public charge. 

• The states encourage DHS to exclude consideration of state benefits from any public charge determination. 

• The proposed rule will ameliorate unwarranted chilling effects on public benefit use. 

• The proposed rule will allow states to better respond to COVID-19 and future public health emergencies.

• The proposed rule will support the overall well-being of state residents and reduce unnecessary costs to state operations and agencies.

In filing the comment letter, Nessel joins the attorneys general of California, New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

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