Divided Supreme Court Allows White House to Enforce Green Card Rule

January 27, 2020 by Dan McCue
Protesters rally on the steps of the Supreme Court to Defend DACA. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court split along ideological lines Monday in a decision allowing the White House to proceed with a rule making it harder for immigrants who rely on public assistance to gain legal status.

The unsigned order lifts a nationwide injunction imposed by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, which had put the so-called “public charge” rule on hold while legal challenges worked their way through the courts.

Both the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, Calif., and the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., had previously overturned lower court rulings against the policy.

An injunction in Illinois will remain in effect despite the Supreme Court ruling Monday, but it applies only to that state.

In imposing the 2nd Circuit injunction blocking implementation of the rule, U.S. District Judge George Daniels called the policy “repugnant to the American Dream” and a “policy of exclusion in search of a justification.”

Solicitor General Noel Francisco noted in his brief to the Supreme Court that the 9th Circuit “held that the rule ‘easily’ qualified as a permissible interpretation of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

As a result of the 5-4 ruling, the administration can now deny green cards to immigrants over their use of public benefits including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers, as well as other factors.

The new policy, which the court’s four liberal justices — Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — all said they would block, significantly expands the factors used to determine whether an immigrant applying for permanent residency would be an undue burden to the country.

Roughly 544,000 people apply for green cards annually. According to the government, 382,000 are in categories that would make them subject to the new review.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch urged his colleagues to confront the “real problem” of so-called nationwide injunctions, orders issued by a single judge that apply everywhere.

In this case, even though the administration won rulings in two different appellate courts covering 14 states, its policy could not take effect.

“What in this gamesmanship and chaos can we be proud of?” Gorsuch wrote.

Justice Clarence Thomas joined Gorsuch’s concurring opinion.

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