Supreme Court Allows Trump Administration to Implement “Public Charge” Rule

In a decision sure to cause controversy, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that it will allow the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule to take effect, making it more difficult for immigrants to obtain permanent residency if they risk becoming ‘public charges’ by using public assistance such as Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers.

The high court’s order reverses a ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that had maintained a nationwide injunction on the policy following lawsuits that had been filed against it.

The justices’ 5-4 vote was split along partisan lines, with the court’s five conservative justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts and two justices appointed by Trump, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, siding with the administration. The court’s four Democratic appointees indicated that they would not have allowed the policy to be enforced.

Proposed last August by the Department of Homeland Security, the policy effectively expands the number of people considered likely to become a “public charge” under U.S. immigration law. If an immigrant makes use of public benefits, such as housing assistance, food stamps or Medicaid—or an immigration officer estimates he or she might in the future—the person could be denied a green card.

Civil rights groups immediately criticized the rule, arguing that it would penalize poor immigrants and disproportionately affect non-white immigrants. Several states including New York, Connecticut, and Vermont as well as New York City and several nonprofit organizations filed lawsuits against the administration aiming to block the policy.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels imposed an injunction blocking the policy in October calling it ‘repugnant to the American Dream’ and a ‘policy of exclusion in search of a justification.’ In January, the Trump administration asked the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the injunction but was rebuffed prompting the administration’s emergency appeal to the high court.

Now with Monday’s high court ruling, the Trump administration can now enforce the “public charge” rule nationwide except in Illinois, which is covered by a separate injunction.

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Ortiguera Law Office

Attorney specializing in US immigration law with emphasis on employment, investment, waivers and family-based matters. He handles family, employment and investment-based visa applications, labor certifications, appeals, naturalization applications, deportation defense, applications for adjustment of status and change of status, waivers, employment authorization, visa extensions, asylum, and motions to reopen. Speaks Filipino, studied at Ateneo de Manila, Fordham University Law School.