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Office of the
Illinois Attorney General
Kwame Raoul

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October 30, 2023

ChicagoAttorney General Kwame Raoul and a coalition of 16 other attorneys general defended the Biden administration’s revision of the so-called “public charge” regulations, which determine who can obtain or keep legal immigration status. The revised regulations reject harmful changes from the previous administration, which caused hardworking immigrants and their families to avoid or refuse critical health, nutrition and housing programs for which they qualified.

In the brief, Raoul and the coalition emphasized the importance of the Biden administration’s new rule, which support their states’ efforts to protect the health and well-being of immigrant families.

“Everyone, regardless of where they are born, deserves the right to critical health care and housing programs,” said Raoul. “I urge the court to uphold these policy changes to ensure hardworking immigrants and their families have access to the programs that protect their well-being.”

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 non-citizen who is likely to become a public charge is generally inadmissible to the United States and ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident.

In December 2022, the Biden administration issued a new regulation codifying this longstanding guidance and undoing the previous administration’s equivalent regulation, which had dramatically expanded the definition of a public charge to include even short-term use of supplemental federal government programs like Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance.

The Biden administration’s new rule, which largely restores the longstanding public charge policy, is now facing a legal challenge in the Southern District of Texas after the state of Texas filed a lawsuit to block its enforcement and resurrect the prior administration’s harmful 2019 rule.

Raoul and the coalition argued in the brief that the 2022 rule is consistent with applicable law, and will help encourage their states’ residents, including immigrants and their families, to enroll in and access health and nutrition programs for which they are eligible.

This would benefit the states by: 

  • Supporting the states’ efforts to promote the health and general well-being of their residents and communities.
  • Improving immunization rates and thus allowing states to better respond to infectious disease outbreaks and public health crises.
  • Promoting the health and achievement of students by increasing enrollment in school lunch programs and related school-based activities.
  • Reducing the financial and administrative burden on states’ agencies, public health systems and safety net providers.

Joining Raoul in submitting the brief were attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington.