Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), any noncitizen who “within five years from the date of entry, has become a public charge from causes not affirmatively shown to have arisen since entry is deportable.” In current practice, this ground of deportability rarely comes up in pending removal proceedings or as a reason for the initiation of removal proceedings.

In May 2019, Reuters reported that the Trump administration is considering publishing a U.S. Department of Justice draft regulation interpreting this provision to make it easier to deport legal permanent residents who have used public benefits. Any potential change to the public charge ground of deportability will likely take a long time to take effect because it would have to go through a public comment period and potential litigation. In the meantime, this practice advisory provides an overview of current law.