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Supreme Court Ruling on Public Charge Worsens an Already Dysfunctional Legal Immigration System

USCIS Announces Public Charge Rule Implementation Following Supreme Court Stay of Nationwide Injunctions,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, January 30, 2020

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow the Trump administration’s public charge rule to go into effect while legal challenges to the rule proceed in the lower courts. Under the final rule, individuals and families who are likely to utilize public benefits—such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and housing vouchers—for more than 12 months during any 36-month period will be ineligible to apply for permanent legal status. The public charge rule delivers a significant blow to the legal immigration system while disrupting public assistance programs and disproportionately targeting low-income families and communities of color.

The Supreme Court’s vote along ideological lines—combined with Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion attacking the types of nationwide injunctions that have delayed implementation of a number of President Donald Trump’s illegal policies—demonstrate the Roberts-led court’s continued willingness to interfere aggressively in the early stages of litigation in order to tip the scales in favor of President Trump’s policy agenda. Following the nationwide injunctions issued against the public charge rule in October, the White House levied a series of unsurprising attacks against the legitimacy of the federal courts. In this case, the decision to close the country’s door to working-class immigrants—an example of the Supreme Court’s continued politicization—undermines both the rule of law by making the immigration system less fair, humane, and workable, as well as Americans’ faith in the legitimacy of the nation’s highest court.

For more on how the public charge rule undermines the rule of law by making the U.S. immigration system less fair, humane, and workable, see CAP’s report: “Restoring the Rule of Law Through a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System.”