When last we checked in on the Trump administration’s plan to deny permanent residency to immigrants judged unlikely to succeed financially, the White House was dealt a trio of legal blows.
In October, judges in New York and Washington State issued nationwide injunctions on Trump’s attempt to effectively deny legal status to immigrants receiving government assistance, while a judge in California issued a limited ruling.
The so-called “public charge” rule has been at the top of Stephen Miller’s list when it comes to what the immigration hardliner wants pushed through in pursuit of his broader agenda, which seeks to reshape the country’s immigration system in the image of Trump’s overtly xenophobic campaign rhetoric.
Appellate courts stayed some of the injunctions, but not all of them, and on Monday, the Supreme Court decided to allow the rule’s implementation in lieu of pending litigation on its legality.
Not surprisingly, the win for Trump comes courtesy of the court’s conservative majority. The vote was 5-4. All four liberal justices would have declined to pander to the White House, which asked the high court to let the rule take effect while New York’s 2nd Circuit ponders Trump’s appeal of Judge George Daniels’s October 11 injunction (which you can read in full at the bottom of the linked post above).
The revised rule will presumably go into effect nationwide, except in Illinois, where it’s been blocked by another lower court.
Back in August, the administration said that within 60 days, new regulations would go into effect aimed at penalizing immigrants who rely on public assistance such as food stamps, Medicaid and government housing programs. The new rule (which amounts to a draconian interpretation of somewhat open-ended language) would make it much more difficult for low-income immigrants and those who are undereducated, to get visas and green cards.
After languishing in purgatory under L. Francis Cissna, the rule was finished under Cissna’s successor Ken Cuccinelli, a hardliner whose views generally align with Miller’s. Cuccinelli came under intense media scrutiny in August for (almost literally) suggesting the US should rewrite Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus”.
“Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge”, Cuccinelli suggested, when pressed about the administration’s proposed rule change.
Ken was excited on Monday. “It is very clear the US Supreme Court is fed up with these national injunctions by judges who are trying to impose their policy preferences instead of enforcing the law”, he told reporters.
Actually, it’s not clear. What’s clear is that Trump is benefiting from the presence of his two appointees on the court. “What in this gamesmanship and chaos can we be proud of?” Neil Gorsuch asked.
The better question is this: What has become of the American dream when the US is now effectively requiring immigrants to prove they’re already financially secure before they can become permanent residents?
“Limiting legal immigration based on an applicant’s wealth is shameful and entirely un-American”, Senator Dick Durbin said, stating the obvious in a tweet.
That’s an oversimplification, but the expansion of the “public charge” rule to cover all manner of additional benefits is likely to have a chilling effect – and the administration knows it. Indeed, that’s the whole point. “A 2019 Urban Institute survey found that the administration’s rule was already deterring people from seeking benefits for US citizen children for fear of harming their own future immigration status”, Reuters reminds you.
And here’s more from Politico:
Public charge denials of poor immigrants have spiked under the Trump administration even without this sweeping policy in place. The State Department disqualified more than 12,000 visa applicants on public charge grounds last year, according to preliminary data reviewed by POLITICO, after rejecting just 1,033 people in fiscal year 2016 under the Obama administration.
Leaving aside whether the administration’s interpretation of the original statute is plausible and/or legally permissible, one thing is certain: Expanding the rule in this manner is cruel.
Here’s the bottom line from The New York Times: The Supreme Court is “allowing the Trump administration to… deny green cards to immigrants who are thought to be likely to make even occasional and minor use of public benefits like Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers”.
Just another step down the road to dark places.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”