City Attorney David Chiu

San Francisco, County of Santa Clara, State of California File Briefs in U.S. Supreme Court ‘Public Charge’ Rule Case

Briefs respond to Arizona-led effort to intervene in litigation over now-defunct Trump-era immigration rule

SAN FRANCISCO (January 12, 2022) — San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu, Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams, and California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced today their offices have filed respondent briefs with the United States Supreme Court in Arizona v. San Francisco. The case relates to an Arizona-led effort to intervene in litigation over the Trump Administration’s now-defunct “public charge” rule, which would have created a wealth test for immigrants entering the United States or going through the naturalization process and would have penalized immigrants for accessing public benefits like Medi-Cal.

City Attorney David Chiu
City Attorney David Chiu

San Francisco, Santa Clara, and California — in addition to many other states, local governments, and advocacy organizations across the country — have successfully challenged the rule in court proceedings over the past three years, arguing that the rule was unlawful and issued through a flawed rulemaking process. Based on similar arguments, a federal district court in Illinois entered a final judgment vacating the rule nationwide. The Biden Administration subsequently announced it would not seek further review of that court’s judgment and implemented the judgment by formally revoking the rule. As a result, the rule no longer exists. Nevertheless, a coalition of states, led by Arizona, are seeking to intervene in the litigation brought by San Francisco, Santa Clara, and California as part of an attempt to reinstate the now-defunct rule.

“No person should have to choose between their immigration status and getting the assistance they need,” said San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu. “Thankfully, the Biden Administration has made clear it has no intention of implementing Trump’s public charge rule. Yet, a coalition of conservative states is seeking to defend Trump’s hateful legacy. In California, we will not back down, and we will to continue to stand up for our immigrant communities.”

“The Trump-era public charge rule no longer exists,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Courts across the country have held that it was unlawful and the current federal government has made it clear that the rule was inconsistent with our nation’s values. It’s time for Arizona to move on. Bottom line: Our collective health and safety is interdependent. When we strengthen access to key public programs — like Medicaid — we’re doing the critical work that needs to get done to protect all of us, especially during an ongoing pandemic. Let me say it loud and let me say it clear: Our immigrant communities should know that they can and should access public programs if they are in need.”

“COVID-19 underscores just how important it is for our entire community’s health that immigrants and their families know they can access healthcare and other benefits without fear of immigration consequences,” said Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams. “The public charge rule was not only unlawful, but it was a bad policy that hurt everyone in our community, and we are glad the Biden Administration ended it. The Supreme Court should not now allow conservative states to misuse the court process to defend a rule that no longer exists.”

San Francisco and the County of Santa Clara jointly filed the first case in the nation challenging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s public charge rule. The Counties were later joined by two coalitions led by the States of California and Washington that also challenged the rule. The parties secured preliminary injunctions in October 2019 that were later upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Trump Administration sought review of that decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, but that case was eventually dismissed after the Justice Department, under the Biden Administration, dropped the case and announced the administration would not implement Trump’s rule. In 2021, a coalition of states, led by Arizona, sought to intervene in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in an attempt to seek further review of the decision affirming the preliminary injunctions. The Ninth Circuit denied that motion, and the matter is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Additional Background
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security under President Trump announced a new rule on “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” on August 12, 2019, that would have rewritten nearly 140 years of legal precedent. It would have radically expanded the grounds upon which a person can be deemed likely to become a “public charge,” and thus denied a green card or entry into the U.S.  A “public charge” means an individual who is “primarily dependent” on the government. “Public charge” does not mean someone who merely receives some publicly funded, supplemental benefits.

By design, the Trump rule would have coerced individuals to forgo or withdraw from critical benefits and care. Trump’s DHS itself originally projected that the rule would have caused more than 320,000 noncitizens receiving health-promoting benefits to stop using them, and even that was a gross underestimate of both the number of people affected and the depth of the rule’s damage to public health and welfare. For example, the Trump DHS projection did not reflect the broader “chilling effect” the rule caused by spreading fear and misinformation.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on February 23. The case is State of Arizona v. City and County of San Francisco, et al., U.S. Supreme Court, No. 20-1775.