The battle over the Trump administration’s public charge rule has taken yet another turn, with a federal judge in New York reissuing a hold on the policy. The new public charge policy is currently in litigation, but the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the updated policy to be adopted and implemented in January. The Trump administration began to apply the new public charge policy in February. But in the new ruling, plaintiffs argued, and the judge agreed, that the novel coronavirus health emergency has rendered the January Supreme Court decision obsolete. Immigrants refusing to enroll in Medicaid because of fears that doing so will label them as public charges post a public health risk.
In the original case, the federal judge issued an injunction, preventing the new public charge rule from taking effect while under litigation. The Supreme Court ruling in January lifted that injunction. The same judge reimposed the injunction, citing the effects of the pandemic. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued an alert indicating that seeking public assistance and treatment for Covid-19 would be exempted from public charge rules, allowing immigrants to enroll in Medicaid for the sole purpose of treating diseases arising from the coronavirus. Immigrants would be expected to disenroll after treatment. The judge found this to be a burden, also noting that food stamps were not exempted for immigrants who lost jobs due to the outbreak.
In a separate ruling, the same judge placed an injunction on a U.S. State Department rule revision that required immigrants to have health insurance, determining that immigrants could meet the requirements by purchasing insurance plans that provide no comprehensive coverage. USCIS has indicated that it will comply with both court rulings. The Trump administration is expected to appeal the rulings.
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