The Biden administration has announced it will not defend a hardline Trump-era policy that made immigrants who receive various public benefits in the United States, including food stamps, ineligible for permanent legal status.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said it decided that continuing to defend the so-called public charge rule “is neither in the public interest nor an efficient use of limited government resources”.
“Consistent with that decision, the Department of Justice will no longer pursue appellate review of judicial decisions invalidating or enjoining enforcement of the 2019 Rule,” it said.
The US Supreme Court also said on Tuesday that it would not weigh in on the legality of a controversial policy after an agreement was reached between President Joe Biden’s administration and states and groups challenging it.
The top court in January had sided with former US President Donald Trump on the rule but said last month that it would challenge it.
US federal law for decades has required those seeking permanent residency or legal status to prove they will not become a “public charge” – or dependent on the state.
Trump, who pursued a hardline anti-immigration policy, replaced guidelines that had been in place since 1999 to expand the definition of what constituted a public charge.
Under the stricter restrictions, immigrants who had received non-cash benefits including Medicaid, subsidised health insurance or food stamps, could be denied a green card.
Immigrant rights advocates deemed the rule a “wealth test”, while public health experts said it would mean poorer health outcomes and rising costs as low-income migrants chose between needed services and their bid to stay in the country legally.
“Today’s announcement about the end of the Trump public charge rule is a crucial roll-back of a profoundly racist policy,” Jackie Vimo, a policy analyst for the National Immigration Law Center, tweeted on Tuesday.
In its statement, the Department of Homeland Security said that once the rule’s invalidation becomes final, the policy that was in place before Trump’s 2019 decision would be applicable once more.
That means that immigrants who receive Medicaid, public housing or food stamps will be eligible, as would anyone who medical treatment or prevention related to COVID-19.
Since taking office in January, Biden has sought to reverse several of his predecessor’s immigration rules. Experts have said he faces many challenges, however, and the process of undoing Trump’s policies could take time.