Harris County Attorney Ryan Files Brief in Lawsuits Seeking to Stop New Public Charge Rule

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan


Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan filed a friend of the court brief last week in lawsuits seeking to stop the Trump Administration’s new public charge rule.

“This proposed rule from the federal government will penalize non-citizen families who seek assistance for food, healthcare and housing,” said County Attorney Ryan. “The current anti-immigrant attacks in this country and issues like putting a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census have already had a chilling effect on our immigrant community.”

Since the 1900s public charge has been defined as a non-citizen who primarily depends on the government for subsistence. The new rule proposed by the federal government would expand the list of government programs that could be used to penalize any non-citizen who seeks to change his or her immigration status. The change covers people who may have used a wide range of benefits in the past such as food stamps, Medicaid and housing assistance, even if they were eligible for them.

The new rule, set to take effect October 15, would significantly expand the types of benefits that could potentially disqualify an applicant to include prior use of Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps, and housing assistance like Section 8 housing vouchers, for example.

A number of states and advocacy groups are suing the federal government to stop the new rule. Attorney Ryan filed a friend of court brief opposing the new rule on behalf of Harris County and the Harris County Hospital District.

The brief points out that studies show that families and children otherwise entitled to access Medicaid and other federal programs will forgo preventive care, causing emergency medical and public health services such as the Harris County Hospital District to shoulder the increased burden.

“This is a public health issue and an unfunded mandate,” County Attorney Ryan said. “If families and especially children do not have access to food and healthcare, we will see people coming into our public hospitals for emergency care in worse condition. Persons with communicable diseases may delay seeking medical treatment exposing others to these illnesses. Local taxpayers will now be required to pay for services previously paid by the federal government.”

“Harris County provides public health services, such as vaccinations, pre-natal care and nutrition for women and children,” Ryan pointed out. “Unfortunately, we are already seeing a decrease in the number of people using these services. We want Harris County residents to take advantage of these programs and keep our community healthy and secure.”

Click here for a copy of the brief.