San Francisco, CA —  On Wednesday, November 3, 2020, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Trump Administration can continue to implement his exclusionary public charge policies, on the heels of a decision issued on Monday, November 2, 2020, by US District Judge Gary Feinerman from the Northern District Court of Illinois, vacating the continued implementation. Judge Feinerman’s decision voided the controversial policy nationwide, that would otherwise penalize immigrants for accessing public benefits, while the Seventh Circuit Court reinstated the implementation of the rules as litigation continues through the courts to determine the legality of the rules themselves. 

Since 2018, immigrant rights advocates and directly impacted families, have been fighting against the expansion of public charge rules, which promised to compound upon economic disparities within immigrant communities throughout the country. While there would be a potential for the undoing of the Trump administration’s new public charge rules under president-elect Biden’s term, the impact of the seventh circuit court of appeals decision remains detrimental to immigrants seeking services and information now and in the months leading up to president-elect Biden’s inauguration. 

“In light of a worsening pandemic, immigrants and communities of color who have been bearing the brunt of health and economic disparity will continue to deepen in their struggle. Working-class immigrants who are eligible for public benefits will continue to be fearful of immigration consequences when accessing life-saving programs in the midst of a global pandemic,” said Annette Wong, Director of Programs at Chinese for Affirmative Action. 

Advocates have been arguing that the Trump Administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act with the new public charge rules, and that rules violate the Equal Protection Clause by pinpointing the discriminatory motivations purported by the Trump Administration in enacting rules that disproportionately impact immigrants of color.

“Judge Feinerman’s decision would have reinstated inclusive and compassionate values into the US immigration system. Resuming public charge stokes fear in the lives of immigrants who are accessing essential public services during a global pandemic. It is unacceptable that the Seventh Circuit Court would perpetuate Trump’s policy agenda enmeshed in white supremacy and xenophobia,” says Hong Mei Pang, Director of Advocacy.

The Administration finalized the new policies in August 2019 and faced immediate legal challenges. Since then, complex court battles have been waged to halt implementation. While litigation ensued, immigrants and their families remain unsure of the immigration-related consequences tied to accessing public benefits and life-saving programs. 

“Immigrant communities are concerned about the upper court’s decision in allowing the public charge rule to apply as litigations continue. Community members who are about to file or in the process of applying for lawful permanent residency are compelled to choose between accessing basic social benefits or adjusting their immigration status in the future. The complex immigration system and the legalistic terms used have also created fear and confusion among the immigrant community, despite the fact that most members are not necessarily impacted by the rule,” explained Jose Ng, Immigrant Rights Program Manager.     

Moving forward, advocates will prioritize the overturning of the Trump administration’s new rules once president-elect Biden takes office. In the meantime, CAA will be hosting a Chinese-language virtual workshop to inform the community about the recent rulings and their implications for immigrant communities on Friday, November 20, 2020 at 4pm Pacific Time. Community members who are interested in participating or have questions about their specific situations are encouraged to contact CAA’s Immigrant Rights program at 415-761-3222 for general inquiries and legal referrals. 


Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) is a community-based civil rights organization in San Francisco.  Our mission is to protect the civil and political rights of Chinese Americans and to advance multiracial democracy in the United States. We advocate for systemic change that protects immigrant rights, promotes language diversity, and remedies racial injustice.