FederalImmigration & BorderSupreme Court Rules Trump Administration Can Enforce Public Charge Rule Affecting Legal Immigrants

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration over the new rule that gives the government greater authority to deny green cards and permanent residency to legal immigrants deemed likely to depend on federal welfare.
January 27, 2020
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration can begin enforcing a “public charge” rule introduced last year that increases the government’s ability to deny green cards or permanent residence to legal immigrants who are deemed likely to depend on subsidized federal welfare programs. 

Introduced at the end of last year, the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule reinterprets the meaning of “public charge” as outlined by federal law to include individuals who depend on food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance. 

President Trump’s rule also gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to deny green cards and visas to individuals deemed “more likely than not” to become “public charges,” by requiring federal assistance for more than 12-months in a 36-month time frame. 

Unlike many of the Trump administration’s other initiatives, such as the Migration Protection Protocols (MPPs) and third-country asylum rule, aimed at curbing illegal immigration, the “public charge” rule affects immigrants seeking legal status by requiring individuals to prove they will not become “public charges” by weighing factors like income, education, and health. 

This is not a new concept, however. 

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The federal government has a history of blocking immigrants deemed likely to depend on federal welfare programs from achieving legal status under both Republican and Democratic administrations due in part to the lack of formal definition for the term “public charge.”

Trump administration’s interpretation of the term effectively expands the definition to include a greater array of federal programs. 

“President Trump’s administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America,” acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ken Cuccinelli said of the rule. 

Prior to today’s ruling, a federal judge in New York issued a nationwide injunction in response to a lawsuit filed by New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New York City, and other immigrant aid organizations, citing the proposed time limit to prove self-sufficiency as one of the main reasons for the issuance of the injunction. 

On the other side, however, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block the rule, saying federal law authorizes DHS to denote an individual as inadmissible if they are deemed likely to become a public charge. 

Using these dissenting opinions as the basis for their reasoning, the Trump administration urged the Supreme Court to lift the nationwide injunction in light of the dissenting opinions of the two federal appeals courts.

In a 5-4 decision earlier today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trump administration.


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Sarah McConnell, Reporter for The Texan

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.