County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors Votes to Approve Funding to Help People Stay Informed about the “Public Charge” Rule

The County stands by its residents in the face of the “public charge” rule, an action by the Trump Administration that targets immigrant families

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. — The Trump Administration’s plan to expand the “public charge” rule has negatively impacted immigrant communities across the nation. While many immigrants are exempt from the new “public charge” rule, it has led many immigrant families to disenroll from or forgo public benefit programs that support their ability to survive and thrive. 

Adding to the fear and confusion among immigrants, yesterday, the United States Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stay the nationwide injunction of the Trump Administration’s public charge rule. To assist immigrant families, on January 28, 2020, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors voted to approve $90,000 in funding to help build informed communities and combat misinformation. “The County of Santa Clara Office of Immigrant Relations has undertaken several initiatives to assess the public’s perception of the new rule and how it could affect the County and its residents. Information collected from these assessments led us to request additional funding, which will be used to train non-legal service providers, to offer attorney capacity and training, and to conduct education and outreach in the community,” said Deputy County Executive David Campos. Because most immigration legal service providers are not public benefits experts, the funds will be directed towards three community organizations in Santa Clara County that have the legal and community expertise to guide residents about immigration and the public charge rule. These organizations are: Asian Law Alliance, Bay Area Legal Aid, and Law Foundation.  

Santa Clara County Counsel, James Williams, weighed in on the Supreme Court’s decision to approve the public charge rule: “We are deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday allowing the public charge rule to take effect in California and most of the country. The chilling effects of this rule will threaten the health of our communities, as patients refuse to seek the care they need out of fear that it will impact their green card applications. And the ruling couldn’t come at a worse time. As our health officials work to prevent spread of the coronavirus, maintaining the trust of all residents is critical. Life-threatening viruses do not distinguish between immigrants and citizens, and Santa Clara County does not either. We will continue to fight this illegal and dangerous rule and believe our legal claims will ultimately prevail.” 

Resources that Help County Residents Make Informed Decisions 

The County of Santa Clara funds and provides services to all residents, regardless of immigration status.  

Every family is different. The County encourages residents to consult with legal service providers when making decisions for themselves and their families. Many immigrants are not subject to any U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) public charge assessment at all, including lawful permanent residents (green card holders), unless they leave the country for more than 180 days; individuals applying for asylum or refugee status; and many other immigrants. On top of that, many benefits are not implicated by the rule. For example, neither use of WIC nor CHIP is considered under the new rule. 

The County funds approved today will go to the following organizations that provide free or low-cost legal advice on immigration and public benefits: 

  • Bay Area Legal Aid: (408) 850-7066 English, Spanish 
  • Asian Law Alliance: (408) 287-9710 English, Vietnamese, Chinese, Tagalog, Korean, Spanish 
  • Law Foundation: (408) 293-4790* English, Vietnamese, Chinese, Spanish, and more 

*Law Foundation does not specialize in immigration law, but encourages individuals to call with questions about using public benefits. 

What is “Public Charge”?

“Public charge” is a legal term that describes certain people who the Federal Government believes may become dependent upon the government. Under certain circumstances, if an immigration officer determines that an immigrant is likely to become a public charge, that immigrant may be denied a green card. 

This rule does not apply to all immigrants. Also, it does not consider all public benefit programs. 

About the New Public Charge Rule:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new rule to broaden the meaning of “public charge” and expand the public benefits that can be considered in public charge inadmissibility determinations. The rule was scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019. However, many governments and organizations challenged the rule and initially obtained court orders blocking implementation of the rule on a temporary basis.  On August 13, 2019, the County of Santa Clara, along with the City and County of San Francisco, filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration to invalidate the new "public charge" rule and subsequently obtained a preliminary injunction from the federal district court barring the Trump Administration from implementing the rule while litigation was pending 

Unfortunately, several courts of appeals stayed the preliminary injunctions issued by district courts—including the injunction obtained by the County of Santa Clara.  And yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stay the one remaining nationwide injunction, allowing the rule to take effect throughout California and most of the country. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, DHS is now free to apply the new public charge rule. Because the new public charge rule is not retroactive, benefits used before the new rule took effect will not be considered in public charge determinations (except for past cash assistance or long-term care at government expense, which have historically been considered under previous versions of the public charge rule). 

For more information about the “public charge” rule, visit

About the County of Santa Clara, California

The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, the sixth largest county in California. With a $8.17 billion budget, more than 70 agencies/departments and nearly 22,000 employees, the County of Santa Clara plans for the needs of a dynamic community, offers quality services, and promotes a healthy, safe and prosperous community for all. The County provides essential services, including public health and environmental protection; behavioral health and medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System including Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (Hospital and Clinics), O’Connor Hospital and Saint Louise Regional Hospital; child and adult protection services; homelessness prevention and solutions; roads, parks and libraries; emergency response to disasters; protection of minority communities and those under threat; access to a fair criminal justice system, and scores of other services, particularly for those members of our community in the greatest need.

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Media Contact: Carolyn Lê, Office of Immigrant Relations, (408) 678-1430; María Leticia Gómez/Laurel Anderson Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119.

Posted: January 28, 2020.


News Release


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