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Hirono Statement on Final Biden Administration Rule Reversing Harmful Trump Immigration Policy

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the only immigrant serving in the Senate, released the following statement on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) final “Public Charge” rule. This rule, which DHS Secretary Mayorkas finalized today, replaces the Trump administration’s xenophobic rule which made it significantly more difficult for many immigrants to become lawful permanent residents by lowering the threshold for who is likely to become a “public charge,” or someone primarily dependent on the government for assistance. Senator Hirono has led efforts in the Senate to block and reverse the Trump Administration’s discriminatory rule. Most recently, in April, Senator Hirono led 12 of her colleagues in submitting comments in support of the Biden Administration’s proposal.

“As part of his all-out assault on immigrants, the former President made it significantly more difficult for hard-working immigrants, including those with U.S. citizen children, to enter the country or become lawful permanent residents. This xenophobic and deeply harmful wealth test not only prevented immigrants from accessing essential benefits they were entitled to but also created a climate of fear among immigrant communities. I heard from hardworking, taxpaying immigrants in Hawaii who were afraid to see their doctor, or access other essential services, even during the pandemic,” said Senator Hirono. “I’m very grateful to Secretary Mayorkas and the Biden Administration for reversing this discriminatory rule, and restoring stability for our immigrant families. DHS must now coordinate with other federal agencies and states to ensure consistent and accurate information is disseminated to all immigrant communities. Immigrants make our country stronger, and I will continue to fight to ensure they are welcomed into this country and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”  

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an individual seeking permanent residency in the United States can be inadmissible if they are a determined to be a “public charge.” The INA does not define public charge and for the two decades prior to the Trump Administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) only looked at whether an immigrant received cash assistance and government-funded institutionalized care to determine whether they were likely to become dependent on public assistance in the future.

In 2019, the Trump administration lowered the threshold for becoming a public charge, making it more difficult for many immigrants, including many with U.S. citizen children, to become lawful permanent residents. The Trump rule counted assistance from many more programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing and transportation benefits, most medical care and more. The Biden Administration’s updated regulation would roll back the Trump-era standards and exclude benefits related to public emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic or benefits accessed by dependents.

In addition to leading formal comments in support of the Biden Administration’s efforts to replace the harmful changes established by the Trump Administration, Senator Hirono also introduced legislation that would have blocked federal funding for the implementation of the Trump Administration’s Public Charge rule. She has also introduced LIFT the BAR, legislation that would remove other barriers that deny immigrant families the healthcare and basic needs to live safer and more productive and secure lives.