Update: The DHS Public Charge Rule continued to be enjoined up until January 27, 2020 when the US Supreme Court overturned the injunction with a "stay,"1 except in the state of Illinois. The USCIS will implement the new rules starting February 24, 2020, except in Illinois.2 The USCIS will not consider certain non-cash public benefits used before that date when determining whether the public benefits factor applies. Source: USCIS Public Charge webpage.
The federal district court in the Southern District of New York enjoined the Department of Homeland Security USCIS's Public Charge Rule 11 October 2019, four days before the rule was set to take effect. This rule originally was intended to effect adjudicaton of applications for adjustment of status to Permanent Resident from 15 October 2019 with a new form filing requirement, Form 944. Form 944 requested sweeping and invasive documentation disclosures including credit reports and full debt information like residential mortgage loans.
The winning brief in New York's federal district court was filed 9 September 2019. The Plaintiffs argued that the term “public charge” has been used by US law makers with a narrow definition effecting a very small percentage of potential immigrants to the United States for more than 130 years, and that the new DHS Public Charge Rule would have expanded the definition in contravention to legislative intent. The DHS’s new Public Charge Rule may be considered unlawful as in contravention to law that has been passed by the US Congress, so the Rule was temporarily enjoined from taking effect.
Since the Immigration Act of 1882, the term “Public Charge” has been interpreted narrowly and plainly to refer to persons who are institutionalized or otherwise almost wholly dependent on the government for subsistence. The US Congress has repeatedly used and approved that interpretation. Someone inadmissible as likely to become a “public charge” would include those predicted to become long-term residents of “poor houses and other alms houses.” 13 Cong. Rec. 5109 (June 19, 1882) (statement of Rep. Davis), Ex. 9. (“[D]eportation based on the public charge clause applied only to people accommodated at public charitable institutions or who were substantially dependent on public relief for the basic maintenance of their lives.” Torrie Hester et al., Comment, at 3 (Oct. 25, 2018), Ex. 10.)
“Consistent with the narrow scope of the public charge provision, federal immigration officials have historically excluded only a miniscule percentage of arriving immigrants on public charge grounds,” according to the 9 September 2019 brief. Less than 1% historically, and even about .1% from 1931-1980!
The new DHS Public Charge Rule would contravene the US Congress’s intent stated in Immigration & Nationality Act, by greatly expanding the circumstances in which noncitizen can be denied adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident.
Under the new rule, 94% of noncitizens who originally entered the US without LPR status have at least one negative factor for a finding of public charge inadmissibility, per the Kaiser Family Foundation’s research (cited in the September Plaintiffs' brief). 42% have heavily weighted negative factors, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
2/ The Northern District Court of Illinois enjoined the rule with enforcement only in Illinois. The Supreme Court allowed this Illinois injunction to remain, as it only effected one state. The concurring opinion of US Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch protests the universal injunctions that courts are implementing despite what would appear to be limited jurisdiction. US immigration law is federal and unified permitting the broad application of the law of district courts across the United States.