Supreme Court allows ‘public charge’ immigration restriction

Supreme Court. Photo: Flickr

Jan. 27 (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday lifted a lower court injunction against a Trump administration immigration rule that expands the “public charge” rule, making it harder for low-income immigrants to get green cards to enter the country.

In August, President Donald Trump’s administration expanded the term “public charge,” allowing officials to deny visas and green cards to individuals who could be considered an economic burden on society for their reliance on public assistance benefits including food stamps, Medicaid, and government subsidized housing. Officials could also look at other factors such as financial resources, health and education in determining eligibility for green cards.

Federal Judge George Daniels for the Southern District of New York issued an injunction in October, calling the new rules “repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility,” and a federal appeals court upheld the injunction earlier this year.

The conservative-leaning Supreme Court lifted the injunction Monday, allowing the new rule to be applied. Four of the nine justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, dissented.

The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court earlier this month to set aside the one remaining nationwide injunction against the rule, with circuit courts lifting three other injunctions in recent weeks. U.S. immigration officials will now be able to use the new restrictions in every part of the country except Illinois, where the rule is blocked under a statewide injunction.

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Federal officials say the stricter rules ensure immigrants do not become a tax burden. They noted that the changes are not retroactive and exempt refugees and persons already granted asylum in the United States.

The State of New York had argued the expansion of the “public charge” rule will make it harder for poor immigrants, the disabled, and people of color to enter the country.

Millions of immigrants “will be frightened and confused about the potential consequences of applying for benefits and will forgo public assistance altogether,” N.Y. Attorney General Letitia James argued in a complaint.

The term “public charge” dates back to 1882, the same year the discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act was enacted, barring mostly Chinese immigrants on the claim it “endangered the good order of certain localities.”

Over a century later, under then-President Bill Clinton, the administration issued guidance that only cash welfare benefits or “institutionalization for long-term care” be considered in determining the “public charge.”

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