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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Attorney General Donovan Stands Up for Immigrants; Fights Expansion of “Public Charge” Rule

August 20, 2019

Contact: Eleanor Spottswood, Assistant Attorney General, 802-828-3171


Attorney General T.J. Donovan today joined New York, Connecticut, and New York City in a lawsuit filed against the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) new rule that aims to deny green cards and visas to immigrants that use, or have used, government assistance programs. The rule change expands the current “public charge” policies by allowing DHS to consider if an individual has received public assistance—or is likely to seek public assistance—in the form of Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known in Vermont as 3SquaresVT), and Section 8 housing benefits when considering the individual’s entry into the country or application for a green card.

“Public benefits are a hand-up, not a handout,” said Attorney General Donovan. “We are not going to penalize people who come to this country and need a helping hand.”

Medicaid, 3SquaresVT, and Section 8 housing benefits improve public health and welfare not just for the recipients of these benefits, but for the whole community around them. The rule change represents the Trump Administration’s latest attempt to limit the number of legal immigrants entering the U.S., and specifically penalizes immigrants from large families, immigrants with poor health, immigrants with limited English proficiency, and immigrants with low net worth. By weaponizing the public charge inquiry, DHS’ rule will target immigrants of color, women, and immigrants with disabilities. In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the rule fundamentally misunderstands that non-cash, government assistance programs are designed to help immigrants who arrive in this country with limited means move out of poverty and achieve upward mobility.

Last modified: August 20, 2019