Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx And Illinois Advocates Successfully Block Trump Administration’s ‘Unlawful’ Public Charge Rule Nationwide

Ruling means immigrants across America will have access to governmental benefits without fear of deportation
November 2, 2020

CHICAGO, IL—Cook County and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) secured a victory for immigrants today when a federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois ruled that the Public Charge Rule violated the Administrative Procedures Act and effective immediately bars the Trump Administration from enforcing the Rule across the United States.  

In August of 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) redefined “public charge” as “an alien who receives one or more public benefits [...] for more than 12 months, in total, within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months).” This Trump definition was ambiguous, and immigrants became fearful that by using governmental benefits they would disqualify from becoming citizens of the United States (by banning eligibility to receiving a Green Card), and ultimately could result in deportation. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx partnered with ICIRR to challenge it.

“Donald Trump has continually tried to instill policies that penalize diversity. His administration’s attempt to shortchange immigrants by changing public charge threatens our public health and destroys communities that have immigrant populations who make these places across America great,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.  “Trump stumbled over his own feet herenot even understanding how to appropriately follow the rules he must govern by from within the Administrative Procedures Act in order to make his desired change to the public charge definition. His egregious and unlawful attempt to tear down America’s immigrants is why I pushed back on Donald Trump’s xenophobic public charge ruling by bringing forward this suit,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

The Trump Administration violated The Administrative Procedures Act (APA), which “governs the process by which federal agencies develop and issue regulations. It includes requirements for publishing notices of proposed and final rulemaking in the Federal Register and provides opportunities for the public to comment on notices of proposed rulemaking.”

Filed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO), on behalf of Cook County and its Health and Hospital System, the suit successfully argued:

  • that when individuals lack health care coverage, they are less likely to seek out preventative medicine, including diagnostic tests and vaccines, and instead more likely to rely on more expensive emergency care. 
  • in turn, this increases the county-wide risk of communicable diseases will increase at a time when Cook County’s Health and Hospital System already faces significant challenges increases due to COVID-19.
  • the Trump Administration issued the Rule in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the process by which federal agencies develop and issue regulations

Counties, like Cook County, Illinois, have seen a burdensome impact from Trump’s public charge rule change as many immigrants ditched their government-funded health insurance (Medicaid) but are still receiving medical care, and therefore the County has had to foot these medical bills.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for immigrant families. The public charge rule change would have imposed real and irreparable harm to Cook County and the people who call it home. I am proud of the women and men of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and our partners for the unwavering commitment to challenging the Trump Administration’s implementation of discriminatory policies, which threaten to harm the public health and economic well-being of millions of people across all the United States,” said Foxx. “We, along with our partners, knew it would be an uphill battle and our commitment to standing against discriminatory attacks from this administration hasn’t wavered. We fully expect an appeal and stand ready to defend our victory,” continued Foxx.

Today’s ruling was made possible by the efforts of the CCSAO’s Affirmative & Impact Litigation Section, which launched as part of the Civil Actions Bureau in September of 2019. The ICIRR is represented by the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Legal Council for Health Justice, National Housing Law Project, and Sidley Austin LLP.

“As we all continue to be impacted by COVID-19, it is vital that no one is fearful of accessing health care. The court’s decision to block enforcement of the Public Charge Rule re-opens doors for immigrants to access vital services like health care. I applaud the legal teams and advocates for their commitment to stopping this unlawful and discriminatory policy,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.


Cook County v. Wolf Timeline of Events

Today’s decision comes after a year-long fight in the Northern District of Illinois, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court

  • October 14, 2019: Plaintiffs secured a preliminary injunction from the district court (the day before the rule was to take effect).
  • February 21, 2020: the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the preliminary injunction order pending appeal. 
  • May 21, 2020: Northern District Court of Illinois denied DHS’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint.
  • June 10, 2020: The Seventh Circuit subsequently affirmed the merits of the district court’s preliminary injunction order citing the Rule’s “numerous unexplained serious flaws.”  DHS’s petition for a writ of certiorari as to the merits of the preliminary injunction is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. 
  • August 31, 2020: Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment.
  • November 2, 2020: Northern District Court of Illinois’ decision grants that motion for summary judgment, finding that the Public Charge Rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the process by which federal agencies develop and issue regulations.


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