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DHS finalized Biden's rule on replacing Trump-era policy.
DHS finalized Biden's rule on replacing Trump-era policy. Photo: Getty Images.

Biden Administration replaces Trump-era “Public Charge” rule

The Department of Homeland Security finalized Biden’s new policy Thursday, September 8.

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The Department of Homeland Security finalized a Biden Administration policy aimed at rolling back the Trump-era Public Charge rule that restricted pathways to citizenship. The former President’s rule restricted pathways to citizenship for incoming immigrants they feared would rely on government assistance and other social services. 

The announcement was made in an official announcement from the Department of Human Services.

“This action ensures fair and humane treatment of legal immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members,” said Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in the statement. “Consistent with America’s bedrock values, we will not penalize individuals for choosing to access the health benefits and other supplemental government services available to them.” 

According to the DHS release, the new rule will take effect on Dec. 23 and will be published in the Federal Register on Friday, Sept. 9. 

“The rule restores the historical understanding of a ‘public charge’ that had been in place for decades, until the prior Administration began to consider supplemental public health benefits such as Medicaid and nutritional assistance as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination. The rule announced today speaks to the Biden Administration’s commitment to restoring faith in our legal immigration system,” the release continued. 

Biden stopped abiding by the policy months into his presidency. The rule was challenged in court, but further proceedings have been suspended indefinitely. It was not until 2021 that it was finally considered to be unlawful. 

As told to Axios by director of immigrant health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation Drishti Pallai, the Trump-era policy “likely instilled a lot of fear in immigrants to apply for these benefits not only for themselves but also for family members who may have been citizens due to fear of exposing their documentation statuses.” 

Like other immigrant programs and policies such as DACA, it also faces an uncertain future after attempts from former President Trump have been made to terminate it as well as legal challenges from Republicans in other states. Much like Biden’s latest DACA ruling that boosted its

protection against legal action, immigrant advocacy groups acknowledge the good step, but are asking for more from Biden. 

“In keeping with our nation’s values, this policy treats all those we serve with fairness and respect,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ur M. Jaddou said in a statement. “Though there is still much to do to overcome confusion and fear, we will continue to work to break down barriers in the immigration system, restore faith and trust with our immigrant communities, and eliminate excessive burdens in the application process.” 

Immigration reform continues to be an unchanged process that is lengthy and costly to get through. While Biden has in small steps undone certain immigration policies from the previous administration, an overwhelming change has not come that will make it easier for immigrants to achieve permanent citizenship. The only thing protecting immigrants now are rules that any Republican President can undo if they choose to. 

“Immigrants throughout this country’s history have come here with nothing more than the change in their pocket and built families, legacies, and business empires. The previous administration sought to weaponize a loophole in the history of the public charge laws. We applaud today’s announcement which is an important step in helping us create a more functional immigration system,” Jorge Loweree, Managing Director of Programs for the American Immigration Council said in a statement.  

“The United States does best when it takes advantage of the talents of immigrants from all walks of life, not just the privileged. Stigmatizing newly-arriving immigrants for having low incomes ignores the evidence that immigrants need time to establish their roots in this country. The data is clear that immigrants are a net benefit to this country, even if they start from the bottom and work their way up,” he continued.

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