The Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for one of President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies. A 5-4 ruling will allow the Trump administration to implement a policy that will deny legal permanent residency to certain immigrants deemed likely to require government assistance, upon entry, or in the future.
At issue is the administration’s so-called “public charge” rule, issued in August that would restrict immigrants entering the United States if the government believes they will rely on public assistance, such as housing or health care benefits. Lower federal courts had blocked the policy from being implemented while the issue is being litigated.
After losing at the lower courts, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to intervene, allowing temporary enforcement until the issue is resolved on the merits. The states of Connecticut, Vermont, and New York, as well as New York City and immigrant rights groups, have issued suit against the rule.
The Trump Justice Department has gone repeatedly to the Supreme Court to lift such court-ordered injunctions, bypassing the traditional appellate process.
Justice Neil Gorsuch — supported by Justice Clarence Thomas — wrote a separate concurrence on Monday, criticizing the increased reliance on nationwide injunctions to block government policies.
“The real problem here is the increasingly common practice of trial courts ordering relief that transcends the cases before them. Whether framed as injunctions of ‘nationwide,’ ‘universal,’ or ‘cosmic’ scope, these orders share the same basic flaw—they direct how the defendant must act toward persons who are not parties to the case,” Gorsuch wrote.
The court’s liberal justices, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, would have blocked the regulation’s enforcement.
While a “public charge” inadmissibility standard has long been part of U.S. immigration law, it had not been formally defined by statute. The Trump rule, announced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in August, defines a “public charge” as “an immigrant who received one or more designated benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period.” Under the rule, such legal resident aliens would be denied a permanent resident status, or a “Green Card.”
The administration has said the new rule is necessary to better ensure that immigrants will be “self-sufficient.” Critics have said the rule would disproportionately bar low-income people from developing countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia from permanent residency.