Skip Navigation
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul
Home | Careers | Press Room | Opinions | Español | Other Languages | Contact Us

August 14, 2019


Under New Rule, Fewer Families and Children Will Receive Food, Health Care, and Shelter

Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul, along with a coalition of 12 attorneys general, today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over changes to the public charge rule that target immigrants and their families. Under the changes, if an immigrant who is legally in the country uses benefits to which he or she is entitled, including food assistance to feed their U.S. citizen children, or housing assistance, the federal government may revoke their legal status, exposing them to deportation.

The new rule also expands the government’s ability to deny visa renewal or permanent residency to anyone they predict will use a broad range of short-term benefits, without any clear formula for making that determination.

“This new rule is another attempt by the federal government to intimidate immigrants,” Raoul said. “Under this rule, if individuals use the public assistance to which they are legally entitled, even if it is to feed their children who are U.S. citizens, they would jeopardize their chances of later renewing their visa or becoming permanent residents. I am committed to protecting the rights of immigrants and ensuring illegal and discriminatory rules like this do not stand.”

Under long-standing law and policies, a public charge is an individual whose survival primarily depends on government assistance, including the receipt of cash assistance or long-term institutionalization. This does not include non-cash benefits, such as food, housing assistance or health care, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Under the new rule, a public charge will now include lawfully present individuals or families who will use a broad range of federal assistance for housing, food or health care at any time in the future, for as short as four months. The new definition expands immigration officials’ ability to deny visas and permanent residency to any individual who they predict may use these types of assistance. Permanent residents may also be labeled a public charge if they used government assistance and leave the country for less than a year.

Immigration officers can deny new visas, visa renewals and lawful permanent residency under the public charge rule only if the applicant meets this definition. If an individual already present in the United States becomes a public charge, they may be at risk of losing their federal immigration status.

Current federal law allows many lawful immigrants to apply for public benefits if they have been in the country for at least five years. Raoul and the coalition assert that DHS violated federal immigration statutes and the Welfare Reform Act when it unlawfully expanded the definition of public charge. The attorneys general also assert that DHS violated the Administrative Procedure Act in numerous ways, including by reversing a decades-old, consistent policy without reasoned analysis and by offering an explanation for the rule that runs counter to the evidence before the agency.

Many visa holders and applicants for permanent residency will refrain from seeking assistance for themselves or their families because it could make them ineligible to renew their legal immigration status or become permanent residents, exposing them to deportation. As a result, fewer families and children will receive services they need, including food, health care and housing. Many children will go without adequate meals, vaccines or shelter, and more families will experience homelessness. Hundreds of thousands of individuals will lose health care for themselves and their families. Many of these individuals will go to the emergency room for routine medical care, requiring states to cover the vastly more expensive medical costs.

Joining Raoul in the lawsuit are the attorneys general of Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington.


Return to August 2019 Press Releases

go to top of page

© 2020 Illinois Attorney General HomePrivacy Policy Contact Us