US Supreme Court allows Trump’s ‘public charge’ immigration curb

The Trump administration policy can be used to deny green cards to immigrants over their use of public benefits.

Food stamps - US
A sign advertises a programme that allows food stamp recipients to use their EBT cards to shop at a farmer's market in Topsham, Maine [File: Robert F Bukaty/AP Photo]

A divided United States Supreme Court on Monday allowed the administration of US President Donald Trump to put in place a controversial policy connecting the use of public benefits with whether immigrants could become permanent residents.

The new policy can be used to deny green cards to immigrants over their use of public benefits including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers, as well as other factors.

The justices’ order came by a 5-4 vote and reversed a ruling from the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that had kept in place a nationwide hold on the policy following lawsuits that have been filed against it.

The court’s four liberal justices – Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor – would have prevented the policy from taking effect.

Federal appeals courts in San Francisco, California and Richmond, Virginia had previously overturned trial court rulings against the policy. An injunction in Illinois remains in effect, but applies only to that state.

The lawsuits will continue, but immigrants applying for permanent residency must now show they would not be public charges, or burdens to the country.

The new policy significantly expands what factors would be considered to make that determination, and if it is decided that immigrants could potentially become public charges at any point in the future, that legal residency could be denied.

Roughly 544,000 people apply for green cards annually. According to the government, 382,000 are in categories that would make them subject to the new review.

Immigrants make up a small portion of those getting public benefits, since many are ineligible to get them because of their immigration status.


Immigrants rights groups and lawyers slammed the decision online, saying it was “an undoubtedly political opinion”. 

“Terrible news, and an undoubtedly political opinion. The Supreme Court’s record on immigration injunctions in the Trump era is completely indefensible. There is no defensible argument that halting the public charge rule is causing irreperable harm to the government. None, ” tweeted Aaron Reichline Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council. 

Charanya Krishnaswami, the Americas advocacy director for Amnesty International USA, said the decision allows the Trump administration to “weaponize xenophobia”.

“The so-called “public charge” rule is nothing more than a repackaging of demonstrably false and harmful stereotypes about migrants. By allowing it to proceed, SCOTUS is allowing the administration to weaponize xenophobia,” Krishnashwami tweeted. “Shameful”.

Trump has made a crackdown on immigration central to his presidency and re-election campaign. This has included implementing a “zero tolerance” policy at the border, slashing the refugee quota and putting a travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries. 

Source: Al Jazeera