The US Supreme Court has allowed the Trump administration to enforce its most ambitious effort yet to restrict legal immigration, giving U.S. officials the green light to implement a sweeping rule that critics warn will shut America’s doors to low-income immigrants and people of color.
In a 5-4 ruling, the conservative-leaning high court approved the Trump administration’s request to set aside a ruling by a federal judge blocking the so-called “public charge” regulation while the merits of the case continue to be argued in lower courts. The court’s conservatives, including President Trump’s appointees, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, agreed to allow officials to enforce the policy, while the liberal justices would’ve denied the administration’s request.
By dramatically expanding the definition of a “public charge, or an economic burden on society, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulation unveiled in August gives officials more power to deny visas and green card applications from immigrants and prospective immigrants whom the government determines rely, or could rely, on certain public benefits like food stamps and government housing programs.
For decades, the U.S. has asked most green card and visa petitioners to prove they won’t be a “public charge” on the country, but the new rule scraps Clinton-era guidance that said only the use of cash benefits could be analyzed by immigration caseworkers.
The Trump administration has defended the new restrictions as a way to ensure immigrants are “self-sufficient.” But opponents believe the policy is an attempt by the White House to circumvent laws passed by Congress by instituting what’s essentially a “wealth test” designed to limit the immigration of poorer people from developing countries.
“If you listen to Trump talking about how he wants a points-based immigration system and wants people who are wealthier, better educated, higher skilled and not from countries he’s spoken of in derogatory, profane language — this is it. This is the policy that aims to do that, without Congress approving it whatsoever,” said Doug Rand, a former White House official under President Obama who co-founded Boundless, a company to help immigrants navigate the U.S. immigration system.
“It’s a way to screen out people, not just from developing countries, but from any country, that the government has decided aren’t wealthy enough, aren’t healthy enough and don’t speak English well enough,” Rand added.