On February 2, 2021, President Biden signed the Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, which restates the government’s commitment to the full participation of immigrants and refugees in American society. The Restoring Faith EO takes a step toward eliminating the Public Charge Rule implemented under the last administration.
In 2018, DHS proposed new regulations interpreting the term “public charge,” which would prevent individuals who receive public assistance (such as food stamps) from obtaining immigration benefits. The Public Charge Rule was finalized in 2019 and led to multiple lawsuits and injunctions from federal courts around the country and eventually the Supreme Court. For more than a year, the Public Charge Rule—including the requirement of Form I-944 from all green card applicants in the United States—was at various times blocked, reinstated, and blocked again in certain states.
In the Restoring Faith EO, President Biden ordered the Department of Justice and DHS (which includes USCIS) to immediately review the Public Charge Rule and take action consistent with the policies set forth in the EO—one of which is “eliminat[ing] sources of fear and other barriers that prevent immigrants from accessing government services available to them.”
On February 3, 2021, in response to the Restoring Faith EO, DOJ lawyers filed notices in each of the active Public Charge Rule court cases. These notices informed the courts that the Restoring Faith EO has implications for the government’s position and requested additional time to determine how to proceed. The government is not expected to continue defending the Public Charge Rule in court.
The Restoring Faith EO also instructed DHS to take steps to communicate new public charge policies and changes in order to “reduce fear and confusion among impacted communities.” Therefore, further action is expected from USCIS as well. T&S is closely monitoring this situation and is optimistic that the Public Charge Rule will be abolished within the coming months.