Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson released the following statement following the Trump Administration’s announcement of changes to the “public charge” rule that would allow immigration officials to deny new or continuing legal status to immigrants who use or may use public benefits to which he or she is entitled:

“The Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda continues today with the announcement of proposed changes to the public charge rule,” Ferguson said. “These changes force legally present immigrant families into a Hobson’s choice — to sacrifice their dream of becoming Americans in order to provide health care, food or a roof over their children’s heads, or let their families go without in order to remain in the country. That’s a choice they should not have to make, and we’re taking a close look at whether or not this action is legal.”


In December 2018, the Trump Administration released a proposed rule that changes the definition of a “public charge,” an individual who is entirely dependent on public assistance to survive. The change would allow immigration officials to label any immigrant who uses one of many common public benefits, such as housing assistance, health care or food assistance, at any time in the future as a public charge. Individuals labeled a public charge would be denied visas and permanent residency and could face deportation.

Ferguson, along with Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, sent a letter criticizing the rule in December 2018. Ferguson also joined 18 other attorneys general raising concerns in a separate letter. These two letters were part of more than 250,000 comments that DHS received in response to proposing the rule, the vast majority of which opposed it.

In his letter with Inslee and Durkan, Ferguson wrote that the proposed rule would hurt Washingtonians: more than an estimated 140,000 lawfully present Washingtonians, including many U.S. citizen children, could lose health insurance as a direct result of the rule. Also, needy families would lose up to an estimated $55 million annually in food and cash assistance, forcing them to go without adequate meals, health care or shelter.



The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.



Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov