PHOENIX – Attorney General Mark Brnovich is leading a coalition of 11 states seeking to intervene in a lawsuit challenging a federal immigration policy that ensures noncitizens can financially support themselves in order to become lawful U.S. citizens or obtain green cards. The coalition filed a motion to intervene in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the lawsuit regarding the “Public Charge Rule,” after the Biden Administration abandoned the defense of the law at the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). If granted, this motion will allow the states to petition SCOTUS to accept review of the case again.
Arizona and the other states want to intervene to allow for a proper defense of the rule. Attorney General Brnovich believes that the validity of the Public Charge Rule should be decided on its legal merits, rather than through a strategic surrender by the Biden Administration. SCOTUS has already granted review of these issues, and the states simply seek to permit the Court to decide them, as it already agreed to do.
“It is unconscionable to overwhelm our infrastructure and immigration personnel when we are dealing with the health and economic devastation of the pandemic,” said Attorney General Brnovich. “While regardless of one's position on immigration reform, this reckless violation of federal law is only creating another national crisis and putting additional strains on our state and hardworking Arizona taxpayers."
In late-2019, challengers of the Public Charge Rule filed lawsuits in several District Courts, and they were able to obtain preliminary injunctions to stop enforcement of the rule until the cases played out in court. The cases were appealed to SCOTUS, which granted stays of the injunctions and also granted certiorari to review the merits of the lower courts’ decisions. The states’ intervention will allow the high court to resolve the legality of this important rule.
Under existing federal immigration law, noncitizens are not eligible to receive a green card if they are reliant upon government assistance, otherwise known as a "public charge." In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created a rule that expanded the definition of “public charges” to include consideration of whether those immigrants who receive certain government benefits for more than 12 months over a three-year period.
Nine programs are designated in the new rule, including four that were already included under the 1999 guidelines: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), state general assistance, and benefits provided for institutionalized long-term care. The five additional programs are: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid (with exceptions), Project-Based Rental Assistance, the Housing Choice Voucher Program, and Public Housing.
Arizona and the other states have a significant interest in upholding the Public Charge Rule because it will reduce demand on already over-stretched government assistance programs. The federal government only pays a portion of the costs involved in many of the public benefit programs at issue, therefore increasing the strain on the already over-stretched state assistance programs. It is estimated the rule will save the states $1.01 billion annually in direct payments. For example:
In 2019 Arizona spent $3,059,000,000 on Medicaid benefits. Increasing the number of Medicaid participants would increase the State’s spending on Medicaid (the costs of which typically exceed State general fund growth) and would require the State to make budget adjustments elsewhere.
Arizona paid $85 million in maintenance-of-effort costs for TANF in 2019. TANF resources are limited. In 2016, less than a quarter of eligible impoverished families received this assistance.
States incur administrative costs for each SNAP recipient. For FY 2016, Arizona paid $77,730,088 in administrative costs for administering this program. By admitting aliens who are unlikely to depend on this resource, the State will save money that would have otherwise gone to fund administrative costs for aliens who would depend on the program.
Joining Arizona are attorneys general from the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia.