Public charge rule blocked amid COVID-19 pandemic

A judge issued new injunctions this week blocking the public charge immigration rule during the COVID-19 pandemic. This will allow immigrant communities across Oregon and the rest of the country to access critical health care and public benefits during the current health crisis.

The injunction issued against the Department of Homeland Security prevents the agency from enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating as effective the “public charge” rule for any period during a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The rule had expanded the list of benefits that the federal government could consider in deciding whether a person can enter the United States or obtain lawful permanent residency.

“The public charge rule has worsened health disparities, especially for the Latino/a/x community, at a time when they are most hard hit by the lethal coronavirus,” said Patrick Allen, Oregon Health Authority Director. “Here in Oregon many immigrant families decided not to access public benefits, even leaving their children without health insurance.”

In January the Supreme Court issued a ruling that lifted an October 2019 decision to block the public charge rule, allowing it to go into effect. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security began enforcing the rule on February 24, just before the coronavirus outbreak became a nationwide pandemic.