Trump admin rule to restrict green cards for welfare-reliant immigrants takes effect

After a 5-4 Supreme Court victory and a scathing dissenting opinion from Justice Sotomayor, the Trump administration’s rule to restrict green cards for welfare-reliant immigrants has been put into effect.

January, per the NY Times, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to move forward with plans 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.

TheHill reported Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a dissenting opinion Friday accusing her conservative colleagues of having a bias toward the Trump administration after the court voted to 5–4 to uphold the administration’s public charge rule, which critics call a “wealth test” for legal immigrants.

“Today’s decision follows a now-familiar pattern,” Sotomayor began. “The Government seeks emergency relief from this Court, asking it to grant a stay where two lower courts have not. The Government insists—even though review in a court of appeals is imminent—that it will suffer irreparable harm if this Court does not grant a stay. And the Court yields.”

FoxNews reports the Trump administration on Monday is implementing the long-awaited “public charge” rule that restricts green cards for immigrants deemed likely to be reliant on welfare — a rule furiously opposed by Democrats, but one that officials argue will protect taxpayers and align with American principles.

“It’s consistent with our law for over 140 years, it’s a core American value of self-sufficiency, and it’s just plain old logic — what country wants to bring welfare problems into its society? We don’t want to do that,” acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told Fox News ahead of the rule going into effect. “We’re happy to open our doors to people from all over the world but we expect them to stand on their own two feet.”

The Trump administration had published the rule in August, scheduled to go into effect in October, but it was blocked amid a series of court challenges. The Supreme Court lifted preliminary injunctions in January in a 5-4 vote. It ruled the same way on a separate injunction for the state of Illinois on Friday, allowing the rule to go into effect across the country on Monday.

“This final rule will protect hardworking American taxpayers, safeguard welfare programs for truly needy Americans, reduce the Federal deficit, and re-establish the fundamental legal principle that newcomers to our society should be financially self-reliant and not dependent on the largess of United States taxpayers,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Friday.

While a “public charge” standard is already part of U.S. immigration law, and immigrants have regularly had to provide documents to demonstrate self-sufficiency, the standard has been lacking a formal statutory definition. Officials have been working on interim guidance published in 1999, but have been without a final rule.

The new rule defines a “public charge” as an immigrant who received one or more designated benefits for more than 12 months in a 36-month period. Those benefits that would be designated included Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), as well as most forms of Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. The rule expands the number of benefits that can be considered from interim guidance issued in 1999.

It also excludes certain benefits from consideration — including tax credits, emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, national school lunch programs, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid received by individuals under 21 years of age and pregnant women.