After being blocked by lower courts, the United States Supreme Court announced Monday it will allow the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule to take effect. The 5-4 ruling ends the nationwide injunction put in place by one federal judge last year.
In August, the Trump administration issued a long-awaited rule strengthening the ability of federal officials to deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to rely on government aid.
The Trump administration repeatedly said the new restrictions are one way to ensure immigrants are “self-sufficient.” But political opponents claimed the policy was an attempt by the Trump administration to bypass laws passed by Congress by instituting what’s essentially a “wealth test” designed to limit the immigration of poorer people from developing countries, CBS News reported.
By expanding the definition of a “public charge,” the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services regulation gives officials more authority to deny visas and green card applications from immigrants and prospective immigrants if it determines they would rely on certain public benefits like food stamps and government housing programs.
The Center for Immigration Studies explained the Trump rule in August:
Federal law bars any alien who “is likely at any time to become a public charge” from receiving a visa or becoming a permanent resident if already here. This week DHS finalized a new regulation that defines “public charge” for enforcement purposes. Under Clinton-era guidance, which never went through the formal rule-making process, only receipt of cash assistance or long-term institutional care could render someone a public charge. Under the new rule, the government may now also consider receipt of food stamps, housing assistance, and Medicaid.
The rule is common sense. Someone who relies on taxpayers for basic needs is a “public charge” by any reasonable definition of that term. It should not matter whether the assistance comes in the form of cash (as with SSI), or a voucher (food stamps), or a direct service (Medicaid). In fact, the new rule does not go far enough. Other programs that are clearly means-tested anti-poverty benefits — such as Obamacare subsidies, free school lunch, CHIP, WIC, the refundable portion of the EITC, and the ACTC — will still not count toward the public charge determination.
California sued the Trump administration last August to challenge the legality of its “public charge” rule that the state said could deny green cards to immigrants who receive public assistance, including food stamps, Medicaid and housing vouchers, the Los Angeles Times reported. “State Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra filed the lawsuit in federal court in Northern California just days after the Trump administration published a new rule that could make it harder for many immigrants to gain legal status in the United States.”
For decades, U.S. federal law has required immigrants seeking green cards and any formal legal status, to prove they will not become a “public charge,” dependent on the U.S. for government provided health care, subsidized housing, food stamps and welfare.
Reactions have been all over the place, and very partisan.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Tweeted: “This is happening on #HolocaustRemembranceDay; public charge rules were used to exclude tens of thousands of German Jews who were trying to flee Nazi oppression. #NeverAgain isn’t just a hashtag, folks – it’s a commitment.”
This is happening on #HolocaustRemembranceDay; public charge rules were used to exclude tens of thousands of German Jews who were trying to flee Nazi oppression. #NeverAgain isn't just a hashtag, folks – it's a commitment. https://t.co/4PVVBA4rBm
— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) January 27, 2020
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra Tweeted: The public charge rule harms our children. It harms our families. It harms our communities. We will always be a nation of immigrants — and we will continue to lean forward in the face of @realDonaldTrump’s heartless attacks on working families. #ProtectFamilies
Daniel Horowitz Tweeted: “Media: Americans economy will die without mass migration. They are greater entrepreneurs than Americans. Trump: “OK, so lets finally enforce public charge laws.” Media: “These people are poor as hell, they’ll be out on the streets!”
Media: Americans economy will die without mass migration. They are greater entrepreneurs than Americans.
Trump: "OK, so lets finally enforce public charge laws."
Media: "These people are poor as hell, they'll be out on the streets!"
— Daniel Horowitz (@RMConservative) January 27, 2020
And this from Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who claims the public charge rule “targets low-income immigrant families.” Newsom already expanded Covered CA to include enrollment of illegal immigrants over the age of 65. He knew this ruling was always looming:
“The effects of today’s Supreme Court decision on the “public charge” rule will be devastating. Because of the “public charge” rule, families are already going hungry and people are avoiding needed medical care.
“California is actively reviewing the decision to determine next steps and provide further guidance to impacted Californians. California will continue to fight against these efforts to terrorize immigrant families.
“Anyone concerned about this ruling should seek qualified immigration advice.”
“The Governor’s 2020-2021 state budget proposal includes a total of $75 million ongoing to support qualified nonprofit organizations that provide a broad array of qualified immigration services. A list of immigration services providers is available here.” The link goes to the California Department of Social Services.
Some expected hyperbole:
Under the “public charge” rule, this corrupt Administration will cheat children out of health and nutrition benefits to administer a sickening wealth test to their parents. Stop trashing American values. https://t.co/DG8DTgw4dn
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) January 27, 2020
It is evident that the Trump administration was well within its legal rights to clarify the Clinton-era guidance on the public charge, which never went through the formal rule-making process. As the Center for Immigration Studies noted at the time, “This new regulation, though not structured as effectively as it could be, is a long overdue attempt to enforce the law as written.”
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