US Supreme Court approves linking use of public benefits to green card
28 January 2020
A divided Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Trump administration to put in place a policy connecting the use of public benefits with whether immigrants could become permanent residents.
The divided chamber's five conservative justices outvoted their four progressive colleagues to support a request by President Donald Trump to lift a New York court injunction that had blocked the rule's application. The court’s four liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, would have prevented the policy from taking effect.
The new policy can be used to deny green cards to immigrants over their use of public benefits, including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers, as well as other factors.
"Today the Court (rightly) grants a stay, allowing the government to pursue (for now) its policy everywhere save Illinois," the Supreme Court ruling said.
The justices’ order came by a 5-4 vote and reversed a ruling from the 2nd US circuit court of appeals in New York that had kept in a place a nationwide hold on the policy following lawsuits that have been filed against it.
Federal appeals courts in San Francisco and Richmond, Virginia, had previously overturned trial court rulings against the policy. An injunction in Illinois remains in effect, but applies only to that state. The lawsuits will continue, but immigrants applying for permanent residency must now show they wouldn’t be public charges, or burdens to the country. The new policy significantly expands what factors would be considered to make that determination, and if it is decided that immigrants could potentially become public charges at any point in the future, that legal residency could be denied.
Trump has made clamping down on immigrants a cornerstone of his presidency, and Monday's ruling is the latest by the Supreme Court in favor of his migrant-related policies. The new rules threatened to set back the citizenship hopes of millions of mostly Hispanic migrants
The White House lauded the ruling, calling it a "massive win for American taxpayers, American workers, and the American Constitution" in a statement.
Under the changes, the 22 million non-citizen residents of the United States using food stamps, public healthcare and other welfare will not be able to obtain green cards or US citizenship, according to the White House.
Additionally, hopeful migrants will not be granted resident visas if they are deemed too poor and likely to need public assistance.
Immigration officials will have more leeway to deny the entry of immigrants or to grant a certain migrant status to those receiving public assistance.
A coalition of states in August quickly sued Trump's administration over the rule. They said it was unconstitutional and disproportionately targeted non-white immigrants.
Ken Cuccinelli, acting Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, welcomed Monday's ruling.
He said the Supreme Court "is fed up" with injunctions by judges whom he said are trying to impose policy rather than enforce the law.