Media Release - Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Organizations Oppose Harmful Public Charge Rule

Over 40 Advocacy Groups File Amicus Brief Supporting
a 13-State Lawsuit Challenging the New Rule

September 9, 2019 - Over 40 of the nation’s leading organizations dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual assault filed an amicus brief yesterday supporting one of a growing number of lawsuits aimed at blocking implementation of the administration’s harmful public charge rule. The lawsuit was brought by attorneys general with 13 states, led by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and filed in the Eastern District of Washington. The Pacifica Law Group is providing pro bono counsel.

The brief argues that the public charge rule ignores the harms it imposes on immigrant survivors of domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking, and punishes them for the abuse they have experienced, by increasing barriers for them in obtaining green cards, or from extending or changing their visas. Amicus brief signers include the co-chairs of the national Alliance for Immigrant Survivors (AIS), including the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence (API-GBV), ASISTA, Casa de Esperanza, and the Tahirih Justice Center.

"This brief presents clear evidence of the devastating impact that the rule will have on immigrant victims of abuse and their families, and the very real costs to our communities as a result," said Alanna Peterson, Attorney with Pacifica and counsel for Amici. "The victims these organizations serve are already refusing critical services out of fear, forcing them deeper into the isolation and financial dependence that is a hallmark of abuse."

“This harmful rule will further undermine efforts by victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to secure essential services that enable them to escape from or overcome abuse,” said API-GBV Policy Director Grace Huang. “Without sufficient resources, victims are either compelled back into an abusive relationship, or face destitution and homelessness. The impacts on victims and their children have long term implications not only for their health and safety but also that of our communities at large.”

The new rule significantly expands the types of public benefits to be considered in a public charge determination, including federal, state, tribal and local cash assistance programs such as SSI, TANF, and state cash benefits, and non-cash benefits including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), federal Public Housing such as Section 8 Housing Assistance, and non-emergency Medicaid programs, with some exceptions. The rule is set to take effect on October 15, 2019, unless it can be delayed or stopped, which the plaintiffs in this and other litigation around the country are seeking.

The rule undermines the progress that advocacy communities have made across the nation to advance victim and public safety and health, jeopardizing domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking victims. In addition to Washington State, other states who are part of the lawsuit are Virginia, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island.

For more information, see this API-GBV advisory about how the public charge rule impacts immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. For additional resources relating to public charge, see