A federal court in Illinois vacated the public charge rule nationwide in a decision today that orders the Department of Homeland Security to stop enforcing the rule immediately.

Key points:

  • The court ruled that the public charge rule exceeds the agency’s statutory authority and is arbitrary and capricious, and that the appropriate remedy is to vacate the rule nationwide.
  • The court rejected DHS’ arguments that the order be put on hold pending appeal and that it should be limited to Illinois.
  • The court allowed the lawsuit to continue on the issue of whether the rule violates the Equal Protection Clause.

Background: The public charge rule took effect Feb. 24, 2020, but has been put on hold several times because of multiple lawsuits. Today’s court decision comes in an ongoing lawsuit that has ping-ponged through the appeals courts. The same court previously blocked the public charge rule from taking effect in Illinois, and that decision was affirmed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. On remand, the court has now decided that because the appeals court held that the public charge rule was substantively and procedurally invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act, the rule must be set aside in its entirety.

In two other lawsuits, the Ninth Circuit and Second Circuit Courts of Appeals stayed lower courts’ preliminary injunctions of the public charge rule, ruling that the Trump administration was likely to prevail on the merits. The divergence in appellate court rulings sets up the potential for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

BAL Analysis: DHS has not yet issued guidance in response to today’s court decision, but is expected to respond soon. This decision was a summary judgment – a final ruling by the court (as opposed to a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction) – and therefore will remain in effect unless stayed or reversed by a higher court. BAL is closely following the multiple lawsuits challenging the public charge rule and will update clients as information becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

Copyright © 2020 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.